COLUMBUS GROVE — “We got a call from a resident who wanted to complain about a neighbor of theirs having goats in the yard,” began Police Chief Sean Hiler during Monday evening’s regular meeting of the Columbus Grove Village Council. “We went down to the house, and I guess some of these goats had gotten out and a neighbor had seen them. Captain Lammers was on duty. He went down there and talked to them. He gave them a copy of the ordinance, and explained that you’re not allowed to have goats in the village.”

“Their owner was very adamant that they are therapy animals. Especially for his wife. They had lost a child earlier this year.”

It was later learned that the deceased child was Ottawa-Glandorf Junior, Ty Conn. On Oct. 12, 2018 he was found deceased in the woods near his home from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. His death was later ruled an accidental suicide.

Questions remain regarding the Ottawa-Glandorf High School’s communication with young Mr. Conn’s parents, and its policy on student absences in the days leading up to the tragedy. It is also believed that the school is still under investigation by the state regarding these lapses in communication. Which means that the tragedy likely remains very present among those who cared deeply for young Mr. Conn.

The village’s ordinance does not include any exceptions for circumstances such as these. It simply states, “No person shall keep any pig, horse, cow, goat, three or more dogs at least 3 months of age, or any other wild or farm animal, animals of any fowl or poultry in any pen, yard, lot or other enclosure other than the house of the owner of such animal or animals, fowl or poultry.”

A small amount of wiggle-room remains within the ordinance’s language. Village residents may keep any of the aforementioned animals, so long as they remain inside, “…the house of the owner…” The goats, however, live primarily in the yard of the owners, and inside their garage.

According to Chief Hiler, the owners also asserted a right to have an emotional service animal under the Fair Housing Act. This act deals primarily with a landlord’s relationship with any tenant in housing that receives federal funding. It also provides some protections for people with disabilities, including emotional service animals. The Sentinel is not able to provide a legal opinion and it remains unclear how the Fair Housing Act may or may not apply to this particular situation.

“To me, I think, due diligence.” said council member Greg Heckel. “We at least need to see if he has a doctor that says, ‘Yes.’ Because we may get ourselves into a bind.”

“Even if he has the documentation that they are in fact therapy animals,” adds council member Skyler Mayberry, “The ordinance still states that they would be therapy animals that would need to be maintained, ‘In their home.’ ”

It is believed that the goats have been present for some time. It has become an issue now because they escaped from their yard, prompting a neighbor’s complaint. Which brings up a potential issue should an exception be granted. As Chief Hiler stated, “If the goats get out and destroy someone else’s property, then that could come back on [the village] for allowing them to be there.”

“I think we just have to enforce our ordinances as-is,” said Mr. Heckel to the general agreement of the other council members. However, he also added a short time later, “If he comes back with medical documentation, I think we have to go to [the village’s solicitor] and get some [legal] advice.” A comment that also seemed to garner general agreement from most council members.

In other council news:

• Council received the results of the Community Survey conducted last winter. Just over 20% of villagers responded. Results indicate that demolition of uninhabited and poorly maintained buildings remains a top priority.

• An update to the village’s noise ordinance received its final reading and was then passed. Previously, any noise that crossed property lines was technically a violation. Now, only “excessive” noise as determined by Grove PD, is a violation

• Mold has been discovered in the basement of Turner Hall. Rentals have been suspended until the space can be cleaned. The source of the water causing the mold has not yet been determined.

• Sammy Barnhart was hired as the new Water/Sewer clerk. Ms. Barnhart is from Grove and was previously the head teller at the Union Bank.

The next meeting of the Columbus Grove Village Council will take place on Monday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m. All meetings are open to the public and they are invited to attend. Anyone wishing to be added to the meeting agenda must first contact the village on the Thursday prior by calling: 419-659-2365.