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We need animal control center, not a shelter

For the last decade or more, I have heard strong concerns about the need for an animal shelter in Harrison County, one of only two counties in Indiana’s 92 without one.
I, too, am concerned about the problems Harrison Countians face when cute little puppies, or bulging mommies-to-be, or old gray dogs are dumped at their doorsteps or on the road. But, worse, there is the growing reality that someday someone will be mauled by a pack of hungry strays, perhaps even killed.
For those reasons, we need an animal control center. We need an animal control officer who can respond to distress calls. We don’t really need a building for that, because the officer could be stationed in one of the offices in the sheriff’s department at the Harrison County Justice Center.
But the officer does need a place to take the animals, and if we could make reasonably priced arrangements with a facility outside the county, that would work, at least temporarily.
Some years back, Commissioner Terry L. Miller proposed chipping in $50,000 to help Floyd County pay for a new facility. In turn, Floyd County would take Harrison County’s unwanted animals, but that raised opposition from folks who feared the loss of control (i.e., no say in how much would be charged to take each animal) would be more costly in the long run. So much for that idea.
County commissioners are currently offering plans for a facility that would cost about $500,000. That figure could be brought down considerably, if the property the county bought for $102,000 in the Harrison County Industrial Park were sold at a profit and applied to that project. The county council is considering the idea while awaiting an estimated breakdown on annual operating costs and other minute details.
As proposed by the commissioners, the center would be large enough to serve Harrison County for many, many years. It would have enough space to keep animals about 10 days before putting them to death and either freezing the carcasses or incinerating them. If frozen, the carcasses would be disposed elsewhere, at a cost yet to be determined.
Depending on a person’s viewpoint, an animal taken to the “shelter” stands a better chance at a better life through adoption than it would on the streets, foraging for food and probably starving to death or getting smashed under the wheels of a car or truck. Either way, our children are safer.
Having watched county government for many years now, and noticing how quickly the winds can shift, I predict it will only take a few “pets,” whose owners didn’t get to the “shelter” quick enough, to be put to death before persons favoring an adoption-type shelter, would be up in arms. Trust me. Sooner or later, it will happen. And I think our public officials know that and cringe at the thought. I also believe that is one reason the issue has dragged on so long.
For sure, the issue is volatile, enough so that some former public officials, Steve Haggard and Ed Emily, for example, blame their re-election losses on their support for an animal shelter, at least partly.
But let’s define the term “animal shelter.”
Gloria and Bill Scott ran an animal shelter for more than a year. Unwanted animals were left in their care. The Scotts voluntarily found homes for the lucky puppies, dogs, kittens and cats, and the few other creatures who found their way to the Scotts’ doorstep, secluded on top of a hill not far from Lanesville.
One reason the Scotts were so successful is that they could limit the numbers of animals they accepted, and they, through agreements with local veterinarians and using funds raised by HEART (Harrison Educational Animal Responsibility Team), allowed animals to be adopted only after they had been spayed and had received all of the recommended immunizations, including rabies. Adoption fees were reasonable, and each new “parent” received about a week’s supply of pet food plus a coupon to help defray costs of the next bag. For new pet owners, it doesn’t get much better than that. Hassle-free adoption, so to speak.
But volunteer work, especially when it’s 24/7, gets old quickly. No one can be expected to do that or any other unpaid job for long.
Last year, free animal spay-neuter clinics were held here for the first time. Those were tremendously successful and are slated to continue next year. The commissioners requested, and the council appropriated, $10,000 for that purpose in next year’s county general budget.
Now, as long as we can keep those tomcats from scratching free and hightailing it to the woods, we should be in good shape as far as cats go. And if people continue to bring in their dogs, that population should drop dramatically in the future. That, according to Commissioner Miller, is pro-active government, attacking the problem at its root. Still, he agrees an animal facility is needed. This county can afford to build a facility for which people will be proud, one that can fill our needs for many years.
The problems won’t just go away, because the county will continue to grow, no matter how hard some people try to stop it. And as those animals have less and less room to roam and a stray pack eventually gets cornered, there will be an attack. Let’s take care of this problem before it gets worse.
Let’s just not talk about an animal shelter. Because that is not what it will be. It will be an animal control center.