Posted on

Animal control may get revamping

Hoping to keep the Harrison County Animal Control facility from becoming a killing field, the county commissioners Monday night gave the animal control officer the go-ahead to find out what it would cost to equip a room in the facility for spaying and neutering. In the long run, that’s expected to slow the numbers of animals that must be euthanized as a control measure.
Since Harrison County’s facility hasn’t been open a full year yet, euthanasia rates aren’t available. But regional facilities show 12,500 animals were put to death last year in the Louisville/Jefferson County, Ky., area. New Albany-Floyd County Animal Control put down another 1,649. Jeffersonville Animal Control would not provide the data, said Tonya Tuell, volunteer scheduler for the neuter/spay program in Harrison County.
The commissioners also gave Mike Gentry permission to negotiate with local veterinarians to come to the facility to perform the spay and neuter surgeries. Apparently, nearly half the people who adopt animals are not taking them to the designated vet for altering. Having the procedure performed at the facility before the animal goes home with its new master would eliminate that problem, Gentry said.
Using funds donated to the shelter and collections for adoptions, plus $1,800 raised in The Corydon Democrat’s recent ‘favorite pet’ competition, Gentry said he has enough to outfit a surgical unit and to have a reception counter installed.
Joseph A. Shireman submitted a quote of $2,960 for materials and labor, which is more than $500 cheaper than the reception counter price in the original plans, said Commissioner James Goldman, who served as the ‘go to guy’ for the building project.
Having performed spaying and neutering under the free program to Harrison County residents’ pets, veterinarian Ronald J. Smith of Ramsey told the commissioners the program is ‘great’ but could benefit from some modifications.
He suggested that many people can afford to pay the regular prices, especially those who purchase a registered animal for $800.
‘This free spay and neuter for everybody, I fear, is being taken advantage of,’ he said.
The most disturbing part of the program for him, though, is being stood up by people who are scheduled to bring in new pets adopted at animal control.
That might be improved by using a voucher system, he said.
Judging from euthanasia rates, Tuell said regional spaying and neutering programs have been ‘ineffective at eliminating euthanization of healthy animals’ in the region.
But she has a waiting list of 264 people in Harrison County wanting the free service this year, which would cost an additional $14,625 in riverboat revenue. That does not include funding for the program for animals adopted from animal control.
Commissioner Jim Heitkemper said, ‘Without a doubt, spay/neuter is the best thing we can do to keep our animal shelter from being flooded.’
But spending for the service is up by 20 percent each year. ‘We are probably making a difference.’
Smith, though, agreed with Tuell’s interpretation of the numbers. ‘It’s a fallacy to think spaying and neutering is going to make (for) less animals,’ he said. ‘It’s never-ending.’
While he was in veterinary school, Smith said he worked for a veterinarian who routinely put down 150 animals every week. ‘Nine out of 20 were lovable animals that just wanted a home.
‘They would lick your hand while you were giving them the shot.’
Commissioner J.R. Eckart said the program, started in 2001, ‘has been a good program. It may not have curtailed the problem but we have to have made a dent.’
He said he appreciates the fact that every Harrison County resident can receive the service for their pets, not just those who fall within income limitations.
The free spay/neuter program ‘has eliminated the need to destroy so many animals,’ Smith said.
About then, someone’s cell phone came on with the theme from ‘The Godfather.’