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Problems began the moment animal center opened doors

Little more than a week after the Harrison County Animal Control Center opened its doors to the public on Friday, Feb. 18, the facility was full and infected for a time with the deadly parvovirus.
‘Twenty-four (animals) were taken in the first hour we were open,’ animal control officer Mike Gentry told the Harrison County Council Monday night. ‘This job entails more than most people would imagine.’
On Monday, more than 78 animals had been taken in; consequently, the doors were closed temporarily. Gentry said the animals include 42 puppies, 22 dogs, 14 cats and five kittens. Additionally, seven dogs with the parvovirus plus two dogs that were dangerously aggressive have been euthanized. Five animals have been adopted.
The facility is designed to hold 36 dogs (when ‘double bunking’ is possible), 12 cats, 12 puppies and six large dogs in separate cages, for a total of 66 animals at one time. Estimates are that 1,400 animals will be processed through the center in a year’s time.
Gentry told the council that euthanization will be necessary at times, but not all at once. ‘I want to give them at least a chance to be adopted,’ he said. ‘I don’t want this to be a slaughterhouse.’
‘He has been inundated with work,’ said Commissioner James Goldman, the go-to-guy on animal control matters.
Gentry said last week that a healthy but dehydrated-looking litter of puppies brought in last Wednesday probably brought the parvovirus with them. The puppies appeared normal, so Gentry vaccinated and wormed them and placed them in a kennel with some other animals.
The next day, ‘There was blood everywhere,’ and Gentry knew he had a serious problem. After consultation with Ramsey veterinarian Dr. Ron Smith, Gentry closed the center and euthanized the litter plus other dogs they had been placed with. For one day, Gentry scrubbed down the entire facility with bleach to eliminate parvovirus contamination.
On Monday, he said everything was safe and back to normal, although he has a facility that’s bulging with animals.
Goldman urged the council to approve funds to increase Gentry’s salary and hire an assistant.
‘If he burns out, we won’t be able to replace him.’
The $25,000 initial salary approved for the officer needs to be increased and the $10,000 appropriation for part-time help is also insufficient, Goldman said.
He asked the council to increase those amounts to $29,640 for the animal control officer and $15,600 for an assistant.
Council chair Gary Davis offered little hope a staff member would be added, citing the costs of benefits for a full-time employee. But both requests will be advertised for action at the next council meeting on March 14 at 7 p.m.
The council approved $24,470 to purchase a new pickup for the animal control officer’s use.
Councilman Carl (Buck) Mathes’ motion to that effect, seconded by Chris Timberlake, passed unanimously.