A New Approach To County Animal Control
For many years our community has struggled to meet the challenges presented by a significant population of feral and orphaned companion animals. Our county and cities have largely held to the traditional model of animal control falling under policing responsibilities and have perpetuated the indifferent practice of euthanizing healthy, potentially adoptable animals. Many citizens have found the situation unacceptable and in response have formed several non-profit organizations and volunteer groups to shelter, foster and adopt out these animals.
I believe it’s time for county government to step-up and implement a new strategy addressing the welfare of homeless, neglected, and feral animals and the safety and needs of our community. This model would seek to shift focus from the reactive policing function of animal control and balance that with a proactive strategy which prioritizes reducing the number of impounded animals and establishes an approach to sheltering that emphasizes animal rescue and adoption.
To accomplish this shift, county leaders must first make sure the shelter is a safe and healthy environment for animals, staff, volunteers, and visitors and that it is a facility that can handle the functions of a proactive rescue and adoption program. Then they must develop best practices for staff regarding facility cleanliness, animal handling and care, customer service and community engagement as well as implement a system of accountability to ensure these practices are followed and community expectations are met.
The county should also seek to partner with local non-profits and volunteer groups that are already tirelessly working to care for the homeless, neglected, and feral animals in our communities. Some of these organizations have established feral cat TNR (trap, neuter, and return) and low-cost spay/neuter programs that the county can integrate with and support. These have proven to be the best way to lower the number of impounded and euthanized animals over the long run. Many are also involved in pet retention programs that share pet care and behavioral instruction for pet owners in hopes of keeping them and their companion animals together.
Partnerships with rescue groups and volunteers willing to foster is another way to improve overall shelter function and save lives. Private rescues are normally better equipped and prepared to place some breed specific animals. When possible, these should be directed to one of those groups. When an animal is impounded that may not be well suited to a shelter environment, such as one with medical or behavioral issues, one-on-one foster care offered by volunteers can be an ideal way to care for them while awaiting adoption. There are many in our community already doing this and I’m confident they would be glad to work with a county shelter fully committed to a No Kill philosophy centered around pet retention, rescue coordination and adoption.
Nearly 60% of our residents already share their homes with at least one pet. My own family is home to 3 crazy dogs and 2 rescued kittens turned spoiled cats. Most pet owners consider their companions part of the family, celebrating birthdays and holidays with gifts and treats, caring for them in health as well as through illness and injury. And they in turn fill their owner’s lives with joy, companionship, and love. To these and many others, the humane treatment of animals is already a personal value and truthfully, we all have an obligation to be responsible and compassionate stewards of God’s creation, and this certainly includes the homeless and neglected animals in our communities