The Sheriff and Presiding Commissioner have recently presented a plan to use an abandoned MoDOT facility in Montreal (which Camden County purchased not long ago) for an animal holding facility before these animals are euthanized at that location. Although there is merit in the idea of controlling the stray animal population, a thorough approach is far from being developed at this point.
A senior veterinarian in the County pointed out that even with 1,000 cages available for strays (and this proposed facility will only hold 38 dogs), they would fill up very quickly. What he said was that what we need FIRST is a good ordinance that would establish a set of rules for pet owners and hold them responsible for letting their animals roam freely causing damage to property or other animals. Such an ordinance should include penalties for offenders, and the Prosecuting Attorney would have to commit to enforcement (which in some cases means punishment for those who do not follow the rules). Animal abuse should probably be part of any animal control ordinance, and would also address animal breeding and pet sales, and commitment by the Prosecutor’s office is essential for this to work.
Of concern was the callous protocol for the proposed facility. Animals would be held for 10-14 days and then executed. The public would NOT be permitted to view the animals nor would anyone be able to adopt a condemned animal. Why not? If, as the Sheriff said, this facility would be manned 24/7, there could be several hours each day when the public could visit.
It would appear the impact on families who use their lake homes every few weeks and whose pets occasionally stray and get lost has been overlooked. Those families might not make it back in time to meet the 14-day deadline and their family pet might be dead at the hands of the County if this policy is allowed to continue.
For others who live here full-time, the Sheriff proposes that all animals which are rounded up by the two animal control officers be advertised on the internet. There are still many people in Camden County who do not have the Internet. How does he propose to let these individuals see if their pet is in the care of the County waiting execution?
Talking to a couple of the residents in Montreal whose property is adjacent to or near the proposed location, not one said they had been asked their opinion. This would seem to contradict the picture the Presiding Commissioner painted.
The Presiding Commissioner stated that by the approval of the half-cent tax increase in 2007, voters were agreeing to a kill animal facility in Camden County. I think most voters would disagree. I helped promote that sales tax and I have a very clear recollection that part of the tax increase was to go toward the hiring of ONE animal control officer. Two animal control officers have now been employed but two are needed according to the Sheriff based on the number of calls the County Dispatch receives. Nothing in the tax increase proposal mentioned anything about building and operating an animal kill facility.
Page 2 of 2 - Listening to the comments in the meeting last week convened by the Sheriff and the Presiding Commissioner, there is clearly a reason to explore a broader solution with ample time for input from the public before this project proceeds any further. It was surprising to me that the media knew nothing about this meeting up to the day before it was held. If the Sheriff and Presiding Commissioner want to formulate a professional system for animal control in Camden County (and I completely agree with them that something needs to be done), I would suggest that the issue be approached by a broad-base citizen focus group that would recommend an ordinance as well as a humane (to both animals and their owners) approach/solution.
An issue as important as this must be put to the voters in Camden County. The Presiding Commissioner stated that the issue could be on the ballot in April 2013. We have operated in Camden County without effective animal control rules or an animal kill facility for more than 100 years; what’s another six months going to change? Perhaps with public input and participation in the process, we can all come together and produce a plan that works in Camden County.