The animals have a voice

The animals have a voice

PUBLISHED: Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Strays neutered, adopted

Shelter extends plan to curb euthanasia

By Chad Selweski

Macomb Daily Staff Writer


In an attempt to decrease the thousands of cats and dogs that are euthanized in Macomb County each year, officials have made several moves to neuter more stray animals and to increase the number of pet adoptions at the county Animal Shelter.

The county is working with animal rescue organizations, a nonprofit group and Baker College of Clinton Township to save more stray cats and dogs. In addition, a committee that was formed earlier this year to revamp Animal Shelter policies has been extended for another six months.

“”I can’t believe how much we have accomplished already. Things have really changed,”” said county Commissioner Carey Torrice, the Clinton Township Democrat who led the charge to spare more cats and dogs. “”But we have more improvements that are needed. There’s really poor ventilation at the Animal Shelter and hopefully we can fix the hot conditions over there. I thought that if the committee no longer existed, the whole process might just die.

The county is working with a nonprofit group, Michigan Pet Fund, and more than a dozen animal rescue leagues that offer a wide array of volunteers ready to assist the Macomb effort.

One project that’s slated to begin in the fall as a pilot program will catch feral cats, neuter them and then release them. Torrice said the population control program could eventually involve 500 volunteers.

Photos and information about stray animals housed at the Animal Shelter are now placed on three pet adoption Web sites.

“”With regard to our perspective of what animals should be put up for adoptions and which shouldn’t be put up for adoption, that definition has broadened significantly,”” said Tom Kalkofen, director of the county Health Department, who oversees the shelter.

In discussions with Baker College, the county and the college have essentially agreed to create an internship program at the shelter for veterinary technician students. The interns will help care for the animals, assist in the adoption process and Baker would aid with efforts to spay and neuter animals. The shelter lacks the facilities to conduct surgical procedures.

“”This would be a real good experience for the students and it would be a positive thing for the shelter too,”” Kalkofen said.

The advisory committee, comprised of four county officials and representatives from five animal rescue groups, will continue to oversee the new procedures, including expanded efforts to spay and neuter as many shelter animals as possible. But Torrice said her goal of creating a “”no-kill”” shelter could be five to 10 years away because widening the net of pet adoptions is a gradual process.

The short-term goal is to decrease the 5,700 pets euthanized annually at the shelter – 80 percent of the cats received and nearly four in 10 dogs.

Some local animal lovers have adopted a jaundiced view of the shelter’s operations based on the high euthanasia rate and stories of animals dying in the facility under questionable circumstances.

Gayle Griffin of Eastpointe said her 14-year-old Brittany spaniel, Conner, ended up in the shelter last year and died. She blames the dog’s death on questionable care.

“”I have not forgiven or forgotten,”” she said, holding back tears. “”I don’t want his death to be in vain.””

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