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It's time to act on animal control


January 11, 2012
Faced with Crawford County having no animal control, the board of commissioners contracted with David Cox, who had the necessary experience and equipment from his days of owning an exotic zoo near English, to collect strays. Unfortunately, concerns about liability soon surfaced and, with insurance too expensive, the county and Cox ended their agreement.

That was several years ago, and the situation hasn't improved, and, in fact, has gotten worse. That is due, at least in part, to an unwillingness to look for another solution.

Each time the commissioners are asked about animal control, they say strays are a problem but they are helpless because the county doesn't have the funding to build and operate a shelter. Unfortunately, that's an accurate statement, not just lip service to kick the can down the road.

To their credit, they have discussed exploring an interlocal agreement with surrounding counties with a shelter about taking animals from Crawford County. However, the likelihood of that happening — at least to the degree needed to make a real difference — is slim. Besides, Crawford County can't keep looking to others for help. It is a Crawford County problem that Crawford County needs to work to solve.

So, if building an animal shelter is too expensive, what can county officials do? Plenty.

There are three types of pet owners: those who are responsible and get their pets vaccinated and spayed or neutered; those who want to but cannot afford to do so; and those who don't know any better or just don't care.

Education and low-cost spay and neuter surgeries are the keys. Both would require a financial investment from the county, but the cost would be far less than building and operating an animal shelter.

While the general fund is tight, the county has dollars available thanks to the gaming revenue it receives from Harrison, Switzerland and Orange counties. The Switzerland County money is earmarked toward paying off the loan for the judicial complex in English, and the council years ago wisely adopted a spending plan for the Harrison County money, but there is some wiggle room.

The county time and again has dipped into the Orange County revenue to fund various purchases, including guard rails and equipment for the county highway department. In addition, the council routinely uses the riverboat wagering fund for requests of up to $5,000 from county nonprofits for projects, such as the youth softball and baseball league, the annual 4-H fair and the Crawford County Community Fest, that improve the quality of life for county residents.

Reducing the number of unwanted cats and dogs and, in turn, strays by developing a public service announcement-type education program that stresses the importance of spaying and neutering certainly falls into that category. After all, a female puppy or kitten born today could result in an exponential number of dogs or cats within just a few years, with many ending up as strays. Some of those could become aggressive, while others are likely to be abused, hungry and diseased.

Education, however, is only part of the equation. Funding needs to be in place for a low-cost spay and neuter program for residents who want to do the right thing but cannot afford to, especially in these challenging economic times.

Such help currently exists from Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana Inc., which provides vouchers for income-eligible Crawford County residents that enable them to get their cat or dog spayed or neutered for $20 with SNSI paying the balance. Unfortunately, SNSI's funding has been tenuous and there is no guarantee how long the nonprofit, which focuses mainly on central Indiana, will be able to help.

For years, Crawford County officials have talked about the need for animal control measures. It is now time for action.

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Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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