Victory claimed on courthouse lawnSeptember 18, 2013
By TONY RAAP
Herald Staff Writer
JASPER — More than two months after the debate spilled into public view, Dubois County Commissioners have yet to reach a resolution on whether to allow pets on the courthouse lawn.
Meanwhile, Janalyn Oster, the woman at the center of the debate, continues to trot her dog over to the courthouse whenever her pet needs to use the bathroom, a practice commissioners say they are fine with as long as she cleans up her pooch’s mess.
“If she is picking up the dog’s doo-doo, I guess we’ll be satisfied with that,” Commissioner Larry Vollmer said.
“We got a lot more important issues than to spend a lot of time discussing that,” he added. “That’s pretty much where it stands.”
Oster, who works at Procol, a collections agency across from the courthouse, takes her dog to the office each day. During her breaks, she walks Snicker Doodle, a 10-month-old Pekingese-poodle crossbreed, around the Square.
County officials have gotten complaints about the dog defecating on the courthouse lawn. A few months ago, County Attorney Art Nordhoff sent Oster a letter asking that she walk her dog elsewhere.
But instead of complying, she decided to stand up to the county. In July, she brought Snicker Doodle to a commissioners meeting and asked county officials to reconsider.
She said she always cleans up after her dog and argued that the lawn is the only green space within several blocks of her job.
She also felt singled out, saying that other pets also play on the lawn. Oster claims she has cleaned up after other dogs.
The commissioners decided the issue needed more discussion. It’s unclear when, or if, it will be revisited.
Jasper city ordinance requires owners to pick up their pet’s mess, but the courthouse is on county property, so the ordinance doesn’t apply.
County officials could pass an ordinance similar to the city’s, but “how do you enforce it?” Nordhoff said.
“Are we going to have a sheriff stand out there all day long? Are we going to put a fence up around the courthouse? And what are we going to do about the stray dogs that come there?” he said. “So that’s where we’re stuck.”
Vollmer and Commissioner Doug Uebelhor said they won’t stop Oster from bringing her dog to the courthouse as long as she picks up its mess.
They said they weren’t trying to single her out. Neither favors banning pets from the lawn. Rather, an ordinance, if passed, would require owners to pick up after their pets to ensure that the lawn stays clean.
“I don’t think we should limit pets, because we’re not going to be able to stop all of them,” Uebelhor said. “Why stop the ones where the owner is there and watching it and cleaning up after it?”
Commissioner Randy Fleck declined to weigh in. Because the issue is still being reviewed, he said it would be premature to comment.
For now, Oster feels as though she has won. No one from the county bothers her when she takes her dog across the street to the courthouse.
“I don’t think they ever thought I would challenge it,” she said. “They thought they’d send me the letter and I’d start taking her to other places and it’d be done.”
The moral, Oster said, is to “stand up for what you believe in.”
Contact Tony Raap at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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