Residents Push for Better Animal Control Practices in Oakland County
(C. Proxmire, Dec. 5, 2012)
Since September a group of Oakland County residents has been coming to the Oakland County Commission meetings and speaking about changes they would like to see in the Animal Control Program. The core group is called Oakland Pet Advocates (OPA) and their goal is to increase rates of return to owner and adoptions, and to decrease the rates of euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals.
Carrie McGowan of Wolverine Lake is one of a dozen core volunteers and over 100 supporters who do research and speaking at meetings to bring attention to the changes that are needed. They have also started an online petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/562/377/465/urge-oakland-county-animal-control-to-adopt-and-implement-improved-modern-practices-and-procedures/ which calls for several improvements to be made.
“Oakland County prides itself in being progressive but in the arena of animal welfare it is decades behind,” McGowan said. “We are starting to bring awareness to the public and to the policy makers of Oakland County. The petition is to show support for improvement. As an example, the need to increase the number of lost animals that are returned to their owner by simply using existing technology and training staff.”
She added that “ten counties in the state of Michigan have consistently been able to claim no-kill status with a save rate in excess of 90%, Oakland County should be number 11.”
Vikk Krigner of Wixom has been to ten meetings since September. At the Nov. 28, 2012 Oakland County Commission meeting Krigner outlined the three main goals:
“1. Every tool and resource available should be used to help lost dogs and cats find their owner. Last year the shelter had a return to owner rate of 14%.
3. Stop killing healthy and adoptable animals. Last year they had a 36% kill rate.”
She went on to say that since September 546 dogs and cats had been killed in Oakland County. A later speaker said that over 2,000 animals a year are put down.
The petition overview also asks for Oakland County to “Retrain staff to present as welcoming and helpful to citizens searching at the Shelter for their lost pet,” stating that
“front desk staff is not accommodating or helpful to owners who contact or come to the Shelter in search of their lost pet. Staffers routinely tell searching owners that their pet is not in the Shelter when in fact the pet is currently in the Shelter, or has already been through the Shelter and has been adopted into a new home.”
Using social media and technology also plays a big part in the changes requested by OPA. Posting pictures of recovered animals helps connect them to their owners who may be looking for them. Speakers at the Oakland County meeting also noted that when owners come to re-claim their pets, they must pay a fee, which ultimately helps pay for the sheltering. If a pet is not reunited with their owner, it incurs costs for the taxpayer to euthanize the animal or to adopt it out.
When asked to give an example of a city with good animal control practices, McGowan said “The city of Calgary Canada is a shining example. Not only do they provide outstanding animal welfare services including low-cost spay/neuter to those of low income, have reduced bite incidents, have effective programs to address animal abuse, re-home their homeless animals but they do it all with no government funding. The cost of this service is supported by those that own animals through licensing and a high rate of compliance of their license.
“In the U.S. Reno Nevada or Washoe County would be a model or Tomlinson County, New York all have achieved no kill status of homeless healthy and treatable cats and dogs and have implemented the 11 programs which are characteristic of 21st century Best Practices. Washoe County (Reno), Nevada has a 94% save rate despite a per capita intake rate two times more than the national average, four times more than Los Angeles, five times more than San Francisco and ten times more than New York City. It is one of over 80 communities nationwide representing over 200 cities and towns across America saving in excess of 90% of all animals.”
County Commissioner Craig Covey also spoke during the public comment period, giving his support for the citizens who came to speak. “I have sat quietly over the past three months as Oakland County residents have come before us as well as in public service committee meetings to talk about their concerns… They have legitimate concerns and simply want animal control to follow the best practices…I don’t understand the feeling I get of defensiveness on the part of our administration. I get the feeling that some in the administration feel that these folks are intruding into the issue.” He urged leadership to take the concerns seriously.
County Commissioner Helaine Zack, who will be representing Ferndale and Hazel Park after the new year, said in a follow up interview “I am sorry that it has taken so long to resolve these issues and concerns. I too want to know that we are running a stellar animal control center using the best industry standards.”
The Oakland County Executive’s Office has not yet returned our request for comment, although at the Nov. 28 meeting County Commission Chair Michael Gringel said “People should understand that many of you have been here. We heard you. We are working with Vikki Kringer on a spreadsheet to get the issues identified so that we can have a direct discussion on these line item issues. That doesn’t mean everything’s going to change. It means that we’re going to be able to address them and get definitive results.”
Ferndale cut animal control from their budget in 2010, and in 2011research indicated that Oakland County had been providing animal control services for free to some communities, although they had quoted Ferndale with a fee. In the time between losing animal control and gaining it from the County, a group of residents supplemented the lack of animal control with a nonprofit effort called Waggs and Wishes, that ultimately disbanded after they had to give up their space in the former Ferndale Animal Control shelter for the County to use as a holding facility. Other rescue efforts, including Ferndale Fur Trading Company and For the Love of Louie provide some services, but Ferndale residents now rely on Oakland County to handle stray animal issues.
McGowan and the OPA are looking for concerned citizens to join in the effort. The petition is located at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/562/377/465/urge-oakland-county-animal-control-to-adopt-and-implement-improved-modern-practices-and-procedures/ for those who want to sign. Those who want to get more involved can email McGowan at OCAC_concerned_citizens@yahoo.com. There is also a facebook page for the movement at Oakland County Animal Control-Concerned Taxpayers and Citizens.