Reynoldsburg soon may require homeowners to obtain a permit to install an underground fence as part of beefing up city code related to animals and fowl.

City Council is in recess for the month of August but is expected to vote in September on changes to the city's ordinances governing dogs, chickens and other animals.

An ad hoc committee in 2014 issued recommendations for changes to the city's code, including the addition of chickens, hedgehogs and ferrets as permitted animals.

The committee also recommended striking restrictions on certain "vicious" dog breeds like pit bulls, in place since 1996.

Last year, council approved a new animal ordinance by a 4-2 vote that lifted breed restrictions from city code but didn't address many of the other proposed changes.

Since June, council's public-safety, law and courts committee has been discussing the code, breaking it into five sections for more focused discussions.

Among the changes expected to be voted on in September is a requirement that underground or "electric" fence systems prevent dogs from being closer than 10 feet from the sidewalk or property line.

Underground fences typically deliver an electrical charge to the animal through a special collar.

Council is considering adding language to the city code that would require homeowners to obtain permits for the fence installation, similar to those needed for installing traditional fences.

Homeowners with existing underground fences likely will be grandfathered from the changes.

In the case of an incident -- for example, a dog running at large -- a homeowner without a permit would be required to show an "affirmative defense" and prove the fence was installed before the code changes with a receipt or canceled check, said council member Kristin Bryant.

"It would be my suggestion that we do it in such a way that if someone is said to be in violation, they could show proof that they installed it before," she said. "If a person is not outside and a dog is, then you've got the problem."

Council also is considering new language that would mandate dogs walked on leashes must be "controlled by a person that is physically capable of preventing the animal from entering private property and/or making physical contact with another animal or person."

Other potential changes include increasing penalties for repeat offenders who allow animals to run at large or create nuisance conditions. They also would make city codes on wild or exotic animals consistent with Ohio law.

The keeping of backyard chickens is expected to come before council this fall. It will be the last portion of the animal code addressed by council because it's expected to be the most divisive among residents.

Agendas for City Council and council committees can be found at reynoldsburgcityoh.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx

The next council meeting is 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9, at City Hall, 7232 E. Main St.

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