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Gentry, Tuell explore options to curb pet population

Aimed at getting the most bang for the buck, animal control officer Mike Gentry will seek permission from the Harrison County Board of Commissioners to use part of this year’s spay/neuter funds to equip an operating room at the shelter for that purpose.
And spay/neuter volunteer program coordinator Tanya Tuell is looking for a way to provide free spay/neuter service to pet owners who have been waiting patiently for funds to become available. Not as much money is available this year because the funding from riverboat revenue was cut in half, from $25,000 to $12,500, by the Harrison County Council in the 2006 budget.
Her concerns and Gentry’s were discussed during a recent work session with the commissioners.
‘We have got to find a way to get this logjam opened up,’ said Commissioner Jim Heitkemper.
‘We can’t just ignore these people who have been waiting,’ Tuell said. ‘But it will use up all the money.’
She was asked to develop a voucher program to allow pet owners who can’t afford to have their animals sterilized to be able to do so; others would be encouraged to spay or neuter their pets as part of being a responsible pet owner.
The days of Harrison County taxpayers picking up the entire tab for spaying and neutering are gone, said J.R. Eckart, chair of the commissioners, now that an animal control officer and facility in north Corydon are in operation.
No one at the meeting argued that should not be the case.
‘I am open to dialogue on this issue; however, the issue of offering free spay and neuter’ for the animals of any county resident ‘has its problems,’ said Commissioner James Goldman, who was unable to attend the work session but said he is studying the issue.
Gentry, the animal control officer, said equipping an operating room at the facility which opened last year would enable participating veterinarians to do the surgery on a rotating basis before animals that have been adopted leave the premises.
The spay/neuter fees are part of the adoption costs, which also includes all necessary shots, worming, an implanted identification micro-chip and a bag of food,’ Gentry said.
Male animals can be adopted for $40; females for $50.
He estimated it would cost about $5,000 to get the room equipped for surgery. That would leave $7,500 for the spay/neuter program.
There are other methods that Tuell believes would help keep down the numbers of euthanized animals.
A free or low-cost spay/neuter program coupled with shelter services gives residents options to deal with animals they didn’t have that long ago. Now, Tuell suggests that policies be put in place to reflect the county’s determination to place the responsibility of dog and cat over-population and intentional dog and cat reproduction on those who choose to allow it.
Such steps would include sterilizing all dogs and cats with the exception of those intended for breeding, in which case a breeding permit and business license would be necessary.
‘That way, we know that only responsible breeders will be allowing puppies and kittens to be born,’ Tuell said. ‘This is a win-win for everybody involved.’
Ordinances would need to be adopted to ensure those requirements are met.
‘There’s a lot to be said for a community and its leaders choosing to enact policies that promote kindness to dogs and cats,’ Tuell said in a report to the commissioners. ‘We are a society that cherishes the companionship of these animals and animals are often treated as members of the family and are cared for through illness and old age.
‘I believe it would be difficult to find anyone opposed to the spay/neuter efforts made in Harrison County,’ she said. ‘Based upon 20 years experience with various spay/neuter promotions and organizations, I know the HCFSNP is a good and logical program, and I thank you and the County Council for implementing and supporting the program the past five years.’
Gentry and Tuell are expected to appear before the commissioners to initiate these goals. The earliest they could do so would be Monday’s session of the commissioners, which begins at 8:30.