February 08, 2012In the wake of 11 dogs and several cats having been removed from a Grantsburg house in December after their owner moved out and left them, animal control proponents asked the Crawford County Board of Commissioners at its Jan. 31 meeting in English for help.
Tanya Tuell, who is the coordinator of the Harrison County Spay Neuter Assistance Program and is with River Valley Humane Society, first approached the commissioners for help last year.
Despite not living in the county, Tuell has been helping there for about a year — often at the request of the Crawford County Sheriff's Department — to find homes for abandoned animals or those living in undesirable conditions.
Unlike last year's commissioners' meeting, when she was alone, Tuell this time was joined by Crawford County residents.
One of those, Julie Perry of Sulphur, told the commissioners that she takes in unwanted, and often abused, horses at her own expense and feeds several cats each day.
"The problem with this is, I don't have any cats, but I am feeding approximately 30 cats because it's the humane thing to do," she said.
Perry said she also traps the cats so she can take them to the veterinarian to be vaccinated and de-wormed.
"In 2011 alone, I took responsibility for treating approximately 75 stray cats. I feed four dogs, all Crawford County strays that were rescued by me. All spayed and up to date on their shots. I receive calls at least every other day from people from Crawford County needing help with controlling their stray dog problems," she said.
Perry said that, in the eight years that she has lived in Crawford County, she has placed more than 200 dogs, 100 cats and countless horses.
"The people of Crawford County that love the animals they know that animal control is out of control. The people that are burdened by the animals know that animal control is out of control. The entire Crawford County public needs to support animal control," Perry said. "I'm asking you not to leave all of the problem on just a few of us."
Tuell said that Crawford County residents currently have no possible solutions in dealing with unwanted cats and dogs.
"Right now, they don't have any options. They truly don't," she said.
The result, she said, is more animals, including several strays, without rabies and other vaccinations.
Tuell said a near-term solution may be to contract with area shelters to share the financial burden.
"I don't know that that's going to work forever, but at least right now, when people have a problem with animals, they'd have somewhere to take them," she said.
Jim Schultz, president of the board, said the commissioners would like to partner with another county.
"We have had some discussion with Harrison County," he said. "I think we'd like to further that discussion and see what could be worked out."
Tuell also encouraged the commissioners to implement a spay and neuter assistance program. She said two Harrison County commissioners are willing to come to a meeting to talk about how successful the program has been in their county.
Tuell suggested the commissioners allocate $10,000 for the program for 2012. However, she said, she realizes that may be more than the county can afford.
"But that would be a starting point," Tuell said. "At least you could discuss that amount and say, 'Yes, we can,' 'No, we can't,' 'Yes, we do want to have a spay/neuter program,' or 'No, we don't.' "
Tuell said the county could contract with other veterinarians to establish a set price and then offer vouchers to pay for the entire procedure. Another option, she said, is to provide a voucher for a certain amount, such as $20, but, if the surgery cost more, the pet owner would be responsible for the balance. Both are effective, she said, but the latter still would be a hardship for many people.
"I know that I talk to people on a regular basis that don't even have gas money, so they're not ever going to have $25 to put on a surgery," she said.
Tuell said Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana Inc. is still providing vouchers for low-income residents to get their cat or dog spayed or neutered for $20 with SNSI paying the balance, "but, there again, they have to pay the $20 and there are people who literally don't have the $20."
Another program available to Crawford County cat owners is free spay and neuter surgeries from Alley Cat Advocates Inc. in Louisville, Tuell said. However, the surgeries are done once a month and in Louisville, presenting a hardship for many residents. (For more information, call 1-502-634-8777.)
Tuell said an ancillary benefit of the spay and neuter assistance program in Harrison County has been more animals getting homes.
"A lot of people are a lot more willing to keep animals that show up, if they get them spayed or neutered. … They can handle (the cost of) feeding them gradually as opposed to coming up with that lump sum to get them spayed or neutered," she said.
While the board didn't make any financial commitments, District 2 Commissioner Randy Gilmore said he would like to see the county get started on a spay/neuter program, and Daniel Crecelius, who represents District 1, said the problem hasn't gone unnoticed.
"I appreciate you coming, because this is an ongoing problem in the county," he said. "We've looked into it, and we've done some things. We need to do more, but this is something that we're thinking about."
Perry and others said they would be willing to do what they can, including donating their time, to help.
"You guys keep in touch with us," Crecelius said, "because, as we progress in this thing, we'll need your input on it."