Mar 06, 2013 (The Sun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
An announcement earlier this year by Yuma County that it was considering construction of a transitional kennel brought out animal lovers who were opposed to the idea and its potential impact on the Humane Society of Yuma.
But it also brought the HSOY board and city and county officials to the table to air their differences and start working toward solutions.
"There's been a lot of dialogue separately and together," said Yuma County Administrator Robert Pickels. "It's all been positive. We have a better understanding of the Humane Society's needs and they have a better understanding of our priorities and objectives. Just breaking down that obstacle has allowed us to move forward more productively."
And while the concept of a transitional kennel sometime in the future lingers, Pickels said, "with the progress we've made, it certainly is much less likely now."
Page Misenhimer, vice president of the HSOY board, and Yuma City Administrator Greg Wilkinson agreed there is a "renewed" partnership between HSOY and its two main customers, the city and county animal control programs.
Just improving the lines of communication has helped a great deal in beginning to work out the differences and address the issues, said Misenhimer.
To that end, he will serve as the spokesman for the board and HSOY issues while Annette Lagunas, HSOY operations director, will be the contact for operational issues. "This way we present a unified voice, not to stifle communication but to improve it," Misenhimer explained.
"Our communication is better than it's ever been," Wilkinson noted. "We've had some open, honest dialogue. Now we need to figure out together how to fix the issues."
One big issue has already been addressed, that of after-hours access by city and county animal control officers to impound animals in the Humane Society's shelter. In the past they would have to call someone and wait for that person to come let them in, and then there might not have been room for the animal.
In a letter to entities contracted with HSOY for kenneling services, Lagunas announced that their animal control officers will have keys to two kennels so they can let themselves in after hours. Furthermore, she pledged that HSOY will ensure space is available for the impounded animals.
A tougher issue is the cost of animal control.
Misenhimer defended the $32 a day kenneling charge, saying other shelters in Arizona charge from $32 to $54 a day.
The real problem, he said, isn't the per diem charge but the volume of animals being impounded, an issue that will increase as the community grows and with it the pet population.
The answer to that is two-fold: reduce the pet population through spaying and neutering animals and increase licensing of cats and dogs.
Through the Humane Society's low-cost spay-neuter clinic, a total of 16,000 animals have been altered over the last three years, Misenhimer said. That has prevented hundreds of thousands of unwanted puppies and kittens.
In another effort to control the feral cat population, the city provides traps to residents, who then receive a voucher to turn the trapped cat over to HSOY, Wilkinson said. "Reports we're getting are that people are seeing a difference in the number of feral cats."
As for licensing their pets, people may see that as a burdensome regulation, Misenhimer said. "We see it as a way for people to protect their pets."
Dogs will get out for various reasons, but if they're licensed or fitted with a microchip, the animal control officers can identify the owners and return the animals rather than having them impounded, Wilkinson said. "If you love your animal, get it licensed."
That goes as well for cats since they're as a big a problem as dogs, he said, noting that last year city animal control officers picked up 1,819 dogs and people turned in 1,816 cats. And each year, the city picks up 1,000 dead animals, most from streets who have been hit by cars.
Misenhimer concluded: "It will take the community to step up and help. It's the only way the numbers will come down."
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