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He's man's best friend, but are we his?

Without animal control, problem only worsens in Crawford County

May 11, 2011
Harrison County has been in the news recently for several animal cruelty and neglect cases, but the problem actually may be worse in neighboring Crawford County, where no official animal control efforts exist.

This dog, less than a year old, was one of five litter mates to be taken from a Crawford County home in April. The dogs were on short chains, and only one had a makeshift house until volunteers gave two others each half of a plastic kennel. Photos by Chris Adams
Except for a brief period about a decade ago when the county contracted a former owner of an exotic zoo near English to round up stray animals, Crawford County, unlike Harrison County, hasn't had an animal control officer, let alone a shelter to house them.

Concerns about liability and the high cost of insurance forced the county commissioners to dissolve the arrangement and, with finances just as tight now, if not tighter, the likelihood of Crawford County constructing an animal shelter and having a paid animal control officer in the near future is slim.

The problem, however, isn't going away and, in fact, may be getting worse. From Jan. 1 to April 21, Crawford County Dispatch received 51 animal complaints and one report of an animal bite or attack. There also have been numerous reports of alleged animal neglect, with several dogs having been rescued thanks partly to the efforts of persons from outside the county.

One of those is Tanya Tuell of Harrison County. Tuell, who is the coordinator of the Harrison County Spay Neuter Assistance Program, has worked to get a spay/neuter program started in Crawford County, but in January helped rescue a dog in Marengo.

Victor, an 11-year-old chow, was chained to a tractor with no protection from the elements, left to sleep in holes that he had dug. Susie Cissell, who lives a block away, said Victor's owners, who had moved across town but had left him at the lot that they still owned, would only unchain him every six or seven months, and then for just a day or two. Worried that he wasn't being fed regularly, Cissell and other neighbors would sneak him food.

Cissell said the town marshal told Victor's owners to get him a doghouse, which, she said, they did three weeks later. Still, Cissell and other neighbors, as well as Tuell, who had been contacted by Cissell, remained worried for Victor, whom they alleged had been physically abused. They also were concerned because his chain would get tangled around the tractor and even frozen to the ground, leaving him little room to walk. Therefore, at about midnight on the night of the ice storm in January, Cissell called the sheriff's department and, with the help of Deputy Justin Ash, who convinced Victor's owners to relinquish custody, they were able to remove him the next day.

"Once we got him off the property, he was good to go. He was so proud walking," Cissell said.

Tuell took Victor to Hillside Animal Clinic in Floyds Knobs and, with the assistance of several people and organizations she calls the Friends of Victor, he was examined and treated for heartworm disease.

"For the first time in his life, he is protected from the freezing weather, receiving food and water every day, taking daily walks and learning to enjoy life," Tuell posted on River Valley Humane Society's Facebook page.

Tuell founded RVHS following Victor's rescue because, while he now has a good home, many other dogs do not.

Victor, an 11-year-old chow, was chained to a tractor and slept in holes that he dug.
"It's pretty easy to find dogs chained and in bad situations," she said.

In March and April alone, RVHS helped with five rescues involving nine dogs in Crawford County. The first involved a pit bull that apparently was dumped along Magnolia Road. Sheriff Tim Wilkerson contacted Tuell after officers caught the dog, which had gotten into a fight with a Labrador after eating out of its bowl.

Officers took the pit bull to the jail, bought a kennel and kept her for three weeks. Wilkerson said the dog — named Betty by the night shift — was very friendly and quickly became a favorite of the jail staff.

"Just about everybody walked her," he said.

Finally, a woman from Lanesville agreed to give her a home. While Betty's new owner has reported that she has been the ideal dog since going to her new home, placing dogs, unfortunately, is a challenge, Wilkerson said.

"It's harder for us to find a place for dogs without animal control," he said.

On the other hand, neglected horses, which also have been a problem for the county, tend to be easier to place because rescue organizations are in place to take them, Wilkerson said.

Following Betty, Wilkerson called Tuell about other suspected cases of neglect, including five dogs at a home along Riddle Road. The dogs, which were reported by a passerby, were on short chains — in some cases just a foot — and only one had a makeshift house. Two slept under the deck to which they were chained, and the other two had no shelter until a plastic kennel found over the hillside was split in two with half given to each dog until they could be removed from the home.

Tuell said the New Albany-Floyd County Animal Shelter and the Kentucky Humane Society agreed to take the dogs, and the Cattleman's Association may adopt a couple of them to use out west.

The dogs' owner, who signed away her rights to the dogs and wasn't charged with neglect, said she had the dogs since they were pups last summer and was trying to give them a good home.

Tuell said it is important to educate people on how to properly care for a dog.

"Some people have a dog show up, and it's seen as a kindness to keep the dog. Chaining the dog isn't seen as treating the dog badly," she said.

In reality, even if a dog is given enough chain to move around, the owner must be careful to provide plenty of cool water and shade, according to experts. Just having a doghouse isn't enough, as it can reach more than 100 degrees if placed in the direct sun. Also, daily exercise, such as a walk, during the coolest part of the day, is important to keep chained dogs from becoming bored and lonely.

Just a couple of weeks later, Tuell helped the Crawford County Sheriff's Department with the rescue of Birdie, a female collie who had shown up at a home as a stray. The residents began feeding her but then moved, leaving the dog. The collie then began killing chickens belonging to a neighbor, who contacted the police.

A cat and kittens were left behind inside the residence, but not until last week, when police obtained a warrant, were they able to enter the unoccupied home and retrieve them, Tuell said.

In addition to the suspected neglect cases, the sheriff's department has dealt with a variety of other animal calls, Wilkerson said. Within just the past couple of months, a skunk had to be removed from the old Marengo State Bank building and an injured dog wandered inside Milltown Elementary School, he said. Then, the day after the school incident, another dog was hit in front of the Dollar General store in English. Wilkerson said a passerby stopped, rolled the dog onto a horse blanket and took it to a veterinarian.

"The next day I heard that dog was doing pretty well," he said. "I think it had a broken leg."

Wilkerson said the sheriff's department does not have the resources to respond to stray animal complaints, but it will investigate suspected neglect and cruelty calls as well as those involving aggressive animals.

Tuell said the key is for pet owners to have their dogs and cats spayed and neutered. In April, she approached the Crawford County commissioners to request they provide funding to start a spay and neuter assistance program for county residents.

"I don't have a specific amount, a specific plan," Tuell told them. "I just thought I'd give you all the idea."

She said Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana Inc. has provided vouchers for income-eligible residents that enable them to get their cat or dog spayed or neutered for just $20 with SNSI paying the balance, but that is contingent on the nonprofit organization having available dollars. She said SNSI already had to stop offering the vouchers once because of a lack of funding.

Tuell said Dr. Barbara Pepin of Cross Creek Kennels in Floyds Knobs has conducted spay and neuter clinics at the Crawford County 4-H Community Park, including one on March 30 that had an "overwhelming response," but there are several area vets who accept the vouchers. (See story, front page.)

Wilkerson and Chief Deputy Shawn Scott also have approached the county commissioners about the issue, which, Wilkerson added, isn't going away.

"It's been a problem since I was a deputy, since I was a town marshal, since I've been sheriff," he said.

"Something's got to be done," Wilkerson added, "and, hopefully, the council and the commissioners can get together with the attorneys and get something done."

Financial help available for spay/neuter surgeries

A female puppy born today could result in 67,000 dogs within six years while a female kitten could result in almost as many cats.

Those numbers, from SpayUSA, may appear unfathomable at first glance, but considering that dogs and cats can begin breeding at just 5 months of age, they become more believable.

The numbers — based on an unspayed female dog or cat, her mate and all of their offsprings' offspring — illustrate the importance of pet owners having their dogs and cats spayed, said Harrison County Spay Neuter Assistance Program coordinator Tanya Tuell, who has worked to get a similar program started in Crawford County.

Tuell has proposed to the county commissioners there that they provide funding to assist residents with paying for the surgery. In the meantime, assistance is available from Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana Inc.

SNSI provides vouchers for income-eligible residents that enable them to get their cat or dog spayed or neutered for $20 with SNSI paying the balance. To be eligible, applicants must receive assistance from one of the following programs: food stamps, major V.A. disability, Medicaid, public school free lunch, Section 8 Housing, Social Security Disability, WIC (Women, Infants and Children) or Supplemental Security Income.

Applications are available at the Crawford County Sheriff's Department in English, Breeden Memorial Library in Leavenworth and the Crawford County Public Library in English. They can also be downloaded at www.spayneuterservices.org/programs.htm.

The applications, along with a $20 money order to Spay Neuter Services of Indiana, must be mailed to SNSI at P.O. Box 55917, Indianapolis, IN 46205-0917. It usually takes about two weeks for the voucher, which is good for three months, to be issued. Applicants who are not approved will receive a prompt refund.

The vouchers are accepted by the following area veterinarians:

•Edwardsville Animal Clinic, 1254 W. Knable Road, Georgetown, 1-812-923-8479.

•Georgetown Veterinary Clinic, 8420 S.R. 64, 951-3388.

•McDonald Veterinary Clinic, 7749 E. U.S. Highway 150, Hardinsburg, 1-812-472-3103.

•Cross Creek House Call Practice, 8370 Atkins Road, Floyds Knobs, 1-812-941-1716.

Dr. Barbara Pepin of Cross Creek Kennels in Floyds Knobs also has periodic rabies vaccination and spay/neuter clinics in Crawford County. The next clinic will be Wednesday, May 25, at 321 Bradley St. in Marengo.

Admissions will begin at 9 a.m.

Pepin charges a reduced fee for her services at the clinics. Prices vary depending on the size of the animal. For a complete list of prices and to schedule an appointment, call Cross Creek House Call Practice.

The clinic is sponsored by SNSI, Pepin, River Valley Humane Society, Crawford County 4-H Club and the Crawford County Extension Office.

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