Several folks have asked me during the past week when Fort Wayne Observed will return to its regularly scheduled programming. I look forward to doing so soon. I appreciate the many comments.
As a bit of a short return, I thought I might share a small amendment I drafted for tonight's Council meeting. The amendment is to the City's Animal Care and Control ordinance. The department has sought a change in some fees in anticipation of changes in the state statutes concerning animals that will take effect at the end of the year.
The amendment deals with an issue regarding citizens and service animals. Not a big change but, as I have learned over the years, those dealing with disabilities face a daunting challenge of barriers big and small. Pruning away any barrier is, in a very real sense, never small.
One of the first who brought that notion home to me in public life was a constituent who called me early in my legislative service. She had noted that Indiana's election laws dealt unevenly with the matter of who could assist a disabled voter in casting a ballot. In some cases you could designate a spouse or family member to assist, in others you could only have the assistance of the polling place judges. It differed as to whether one voted by paper ballot or machine, and as to whether one was visually impaired or was disabled due to another condition.
As she noted to me, one application asked that the applicant had to list the cause of the disability on the reverse of the application. As she rightly noted, "That is nobody's business but my own."
This was pre-Americans with Disabilities Act. She asked me to work to make the laws uniform. I introduced legislation to do so. After it had passed the House but before it had been by the Senate Elections Committee a young man from Plainfield contacted me; he had read a story about the legislation in the Indianapolis Star. He wanted to testify in favor of the bill. He had severe developmental disabilities and wanted to let legislators know that the world he wanted to live in should not have such barriers. I was struck that it wasn't his disabilities that motivated him to speak to the much older legislators. It was his age.
His world was going to be a different world than the one in which the legislators came of age and with which they were familiar.
And, so we come to today. In the case of this amendment it is not so much to change the world but to recognize the world has changed. Service animals now perform a range of tasks that were not known a few decades ago.
Here is the amendment:
MITCH HARPER, Member
Fort Wayne Common Council
AMENDMENT ON THIRD READING
DECEMBER 8, 2009 Regular Session
BILL NO. G-09-11-20
General Ordinance Repealing and Replacing Sections 91.50 Through 91.062 of Chapter 91 Animal Control, of the City of Fort Wayne Code of Ordinances.
MOTION TO AMENDSection 91.052 FEES.
More specifically, an amendment to Section 91.052 (A) (3):
Strike the following contents:
Handicapped person. Any handicapped owner of a dog that is used for seeing or hearing purposes shall be exempt from a permit fee.
And replace with the following:
Service animal exemption.A person who is impaired by:
(a)blindness or any other visual impairment;
(b)deafness or any other aural impairment;
(c)a physical disability; or
(d)amedical condition; and,
relies on a service animal for navigation, assistance in performing daily activities or alert signals regarding the onset of the person’s medical condition, shall be exempt from a permit fee for the service animal.
The amendment would strike the use of the archaic term “handicapped” and broaden the definition of an animal providing assistance to a person with an impairment, disability or medical condition.
The language mirrors that of the Indiana Code in defining “service animal” found at IC 35-46-3-1.5.Other communities use the term “assistance animal” or other construction.
Amending the language recognized that the use of service animals has broadened substantially from the historic recognition of dogs assisting those with a seeing or hearingimpairment.
Today, service animals assist those with developmental disabilities, epilepsy, autism, stroke, degenerative bone conditions, neuromuscular conditions and those with traumatic injuries, including veterans injured on the battlefield.
Importantly, there is a needto update the Fort Wayne City Code in light of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
My thanks to Jeff Scherer for his assistance with this ordinance amendment.