City ordinance puts couple in the doghouse
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent March 14, 2014 7:04PM
Hobart resident holds Sammy, an 8-year-old Havanese that she's been fostering. | Karen Caffarini~for Sun-Times Media
For more information
Individuals interested in adopting one of her dogs can call Diane Link Polgar at 219-940-9547.
Updated: April 17, 2014 6:19AM
HOBART — Robert and Diane Link Polgar have a special place in their hearts for dogs, especially those that have health problems, are elderly or are generally hard to place.
They’ve taken in strays that were skinny as a rail, dogs that were returned over and over again to shelters, those that acquaintances begged them to take.
The Polgars are fostering some of the dogs. Three are at their house temporarily; they belong to their son and daughter-in-law who are in the military. The dogs that Diane Link Polgar said are the most unadoptable, they planned to keep as long as needed.
The problem is, they live in Hobart, which has a three-animal maximum rule.
The Polgars currently have 30 dogs, most of which are small, in addition to a cat and several finches and cockatiels.
Someone reported them to the city. And now they have to find homes for about two dozen of the animals, a task the couple said won’t be easy for them emotionally or practically.
“One is blind, one is deaf, one has a hyperthyroid and one is bipolar. If I didn’t have them, they’d be put down. They’re unadoptable,” Diane Link Polgar said.
The Board of Zoning Appeals recommended the couple have two years to find homes for the animals, saying it didn’t want to set a precedent and has denied similar requests in the past for fewer animals. But the City Council, which has the final say, may not be so lenient.
“You have to love those people. It’s from the heart. But other people will come and want the same exception,” Councilman Pete Mendez, D-2nd, said after the BZA meeting.
“You have an ordinance in the city for a reason. Their hardship is of their own doing,” said Council President Jerry Herzog, D-1st.
“When you hear 30 dogs, you think hoarders. But we’re not,” Link Polgar said.
She said all their dogs are kept inside and are always supervised when they go outside in their fenced yard where they have umbrellas to sit under during sunny days and a doggy pool for one dog who likes to swim. Most stay downstairs and have their own TV to entertain them.
They are crated when they eat, but can roam the downstairs of the home much of the time.
Cpl. Robert Russo, code enforcement officer for the city, told the BZA he made a surprise visit to the house and found it neat, clean and orderly with no foul odors. A visit by the Post-Tribune found it the same.
BZA member Ron Jackson said some neighbors wrote complimentary letters about the couple and their animals.
Link Polgar presented a copy of the pay she receives working at a nearby animal clinic, and shared her net pay after spending most of the money to treat and feed her dogs, some of which are on special diets.
She keeps a binder with information on each animal so she knows when they need a visit to the vet or what medication it needs to take.
Fran Ranger, president of Safe Haven Rescue & Adoption Inc. in Portage, which Link Polgar fosters for, spoke on behalf of the Hobart woman to the BZA and echoed her concerns.
“She takes very good care of her dogs. They are all clean and vaccinated. Diane is a valuable asset to us,” Ranger said.
Ranger said dogs older than 5 are typically hard to adopt.
“I’m afraid a lot of these dogs would have to be put to sleep,” Ranger said.
Link Polgar knows she’ll have to find homes for most of her animals. She just hopes she can get the two years recommended by the BZA.
“If I only have months I know many will be put down. Seven of the dogs are older than 10. They will pass on their own by then,” she said.
There are some she knows she can never give up — such as the ones that belonged to her parents.
Others she hopes will find another good home, including Emma, an 8-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who is deaf and suffering from a bladder infection; Lola, a 3-year-old Chihuahua; and Sammy, an 8-year-old Havanese who acts like a puppy.
Link Polgar said there’s no fee for Lola, but others will have to be adopted through Safe Haven and its fees would apply.