Friday, November 03, 2000

Animal lover will battle zoning limit

Woman says neighbors support her

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FAIRFIELD — The story of a woman ordered to get rid of dozens of pets has ignited controversy over the city zoning code's two-pet limit.

        Barb Wollebeck, who has had difficulty finding other homes for the dozens of stray, sick and abused animals she adopted, on Thursday said she has decided to push for a change in the law — and a variance that would allow her to keep her remaining animals.

        “I've got all my neighbors supporting me, and we're going to see about changing the zoning law,” Ms. Wollebeck said Thursday, two days after an Enquirer story about her plight. “My phone kept ringing off the hook — and they're all supporting me. They think what happened is wrong.”

How it started
               Last month, the Humane Association of Butler County learned Ms. Wollebeck had 27 dog licenses and more than a dozen cats. Suspecting maltreatment, the associ ation reported her to Fairfield authorities. A surprise inspection found the animals well cared for and her neighbors undisturbed, but Fairfield officials issued a violation notice and threatened fines and court action unless she removes the pets by Nov. 17.

Compassion "gone astray'
               City Councilman Sterling Uhler, who said he received several phone calls and e-mails about Ms. Wollebeck's situation, urged city officials to proceed with caution. “In my 20-plus years of council service, I have seen many examples of animal lovers' compassion gone astray,” he said in a news release. “Whether it's the health of the protector, finances or simply the inability to sense a limit, the end result is a condition to which neither animals nor humans should be subjected.”

        As of Thursday, Ms. Wollebeck had gotten rid of 17 dogs and still had 10, along with more than a dozen cats. She refuses to take the animals to a shelter where they will be euthanized.

        ""My purpose is, I'm not trying to fight City Hall. I'm not trying to go after anybody. I just want to prove that, as long as somebody can support and take care of the animals they have, there shouldn't be any problem with it,” Ms. Wollebeck said.

        John Clemmons, city law director, said a change in the zoning code would require Ms. Wollebeck to find a City Council member to sponsor it, a process that could take months.

        To obtain a variance, Ms. Wollebeck will need to apply to the city's Board of Zoning Appeals. Property owners within 200 feet of her home would be notified of the proposed change and a public hearing would be held, Mr. Clemmons said.

Earlier challenge
               Mr. Clemmons said he wasn't sure exactly how long the ordinance has been in effect or what prompted its creation, but said it has been on the books since at least 1969.

        He noted that another resident challenged the ordinance's constitutionality, but Municipal Court upheld it.


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