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Funds, education keys to solving problem

January 04, 2012
Tanya Tuell, who has assisted with various animal cases in Crawford County during the past year, said that while situations like the Grantsburg dogs are bad, she has seen worse.

Tuell, the coordinator of the Harrison County Spay Neuter Assistance Program and is with River Valley Humane Society, pointed to the case of Victor, a chow at Marengo who was chained without a doghouse who, according to witnesses, wasn't fed daily.

"It would have solved the problem much more quickly if we could have sought charges of neglect. It was a clear-cut case. The Grantsburg dogs and cats are different," she said, explaining that, while the conditions inside the house were unpleasant for humans, animals aren't as picky.

"Dogs and cats don't care if a place is messy," Tuell said. "They were inside from the weather and they were getting food. I wouldn't want someone who is openly asking for help to be afraid they will be persecuted. It's a case-by-case basis. "

Tuell, who has 20 years of experience, said the situation is much worse for animals who are exposed to the elements and not fed and watered daily.

"For me, it's always the chained or penned dogs who can't escape the mud pit they're living in, the doghouse leaks, there is no doghouse, no food, no water," she said. "They roast in the broiling sun and freeze during cold weather. They live in isolation, lonely, scared and sometimes the chained females repeatedly have puppies. We don't treat our worst prisoners like this, yet it's OK to put a chain around the neck of man's best friend and torture him or her slowly, for 10 years or more."

Among the group that pushed for an animal shelter in Harrison County, Tuell last year approached the Crawford County Board of Commissioners about the need for animal control. Nothing materialized from that discussion, but she plans on attending the commissioners' January meeting.

"Failure to spay-neuter is common throughout all areas of the United States, rural and urban," she said. "I do know that low-cost and free surgeries — free is better — must be offered by every county government. That, along with animal transport assistance to the vet, when necessary, will ensure the majority of the cats and dogs are sterilized," she said.

Unfortunately, Tuell explained, there is a small percentage of people who refuse to have their pets spayed or neutered, partly because of misinformation and partly because of stubbornness.

"They believe their unaltered male cats and dogs should roam free, that their female pets should have offspring so their children can experience the wonder of it all," she said. "And there's folklore like the females need to have one litter, neutering makes an animal lazy, as in he or she won't be as good a watchdog, and some menfolk can't bear hurting male pets by having them neutered.

"The big problem is that this small percentage who will never comply hold the rest of society hostage and animals pay the biggest price," Tuell continued. "We're dealing with exponential growth. The bigger the numbers get, the faster they grow."

One unaltered male dog or cat causes millions of unwanted puppies and kittens in eight years, she said, noting that one unaltered female causes some 60,000 in six years. The majority of the time taxpayers foot the bill for addressing pet overpopulation, she said.

"So what's the answer? Sterilization of dogs and cats requirements in every county or statewide is the only way to get this small percentage of people to do what's right for their community, for their fellow citizens," Tuell said. "Each litter born has the potential to spread out, puppies and kittens given away or dumped, reproduce and they spread further and further. These animals don't understand county lines, so I guarantee the problem is felt in surrounding counties.

"And somebody, our friends, neighbors, relatives, have to deal with overpopulation primarily by euthanizing all the unwanted puppies and kittens being produced. This responsibility takes a terrible toll on those folks. Shelter staff must pick out which animals to kill. Healthy, friendly, lovable infant and adult animals who they've fed, walked and cared for must now die at their hands. It's horrible, and I hope it will increasingly become absolutely unacceptable by society."

Tuell has been influential in bringing a program to Crawford County to provide financial assistance to income-eligible pet owners to have their dog or cat spayed or neutered (see sidebar) and would like to expand the Harrison County SNAP education program, where she and "SNAP Harrison," the program's official mascot, visit county schools, there, as well.

"I would like to bring the program to Crawford County schools, and I'll be contacting school officials asking permission," she said.

Tracye Miller, who helped Raisor with the Grantsburg dogs and is in the process of attaining 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in order to start a dog rescue, said she also would like to help the county develop some type of animal control program. She said that, if anyone else is interested in helping, they may contact her by e-mail at t302@frontier.com.

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