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Rock County vet aims to fix area animal problem

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
December 9, 2011
— Dean Peterson decided Rock County has a problem with stray animals after his veterinary clinic started getting calls from town officials asking if the clinic accepts strays.

Peterson, a veterinarian with the Janesville Animal Medical Center, had assumed all towns have contracts with the humane society to take care of strays.


He later learned that’s not the case.


Many towns fear the fiscal potential of such contracts, Peterson said. Finding a hoarder with 200 cats could result in huge bills and bust a town’s budget, he said.


Because the problem is countywide, Peterson believes the solution must be countywide.


Peterson has partnered with Janesville Deputy Police Chief Dan Davis to investigate how the county can handle stray animals in the future.


Twenty-seven governmental entities, which now deal individually with stray animals, have stakes in a solution, Peterson said.


Some contract with the Rock County Humane Society, 222 S. Arch St., Janesville.


Others don’t.


Angela Rhodes, executive director at the humane society, has said her agency is getting out of the animal control business.


The $130 the humane society charges Janesville for each stray the society picks up doesn’t cover the real cost of keeping that animal, Rhodes has said. She also said the humane society needs a new, separate holding facility for strays.


Peterson began hearing about animal control issues several years ago and realized the humane society’s mission and the need for animal control are not the same.


Humane societies across the state are getting out of the stray animal control business, he said.


In Rock County, having each town, city and village handle strays individually causes confusion, he said.


Someone taking a stray to the humane society could tell workers the animal was found in Janesville even if it was found in a town with no contract with the society, for instance. Janesville would foot the bill.


Janesville last year negotiated with the human society to pay $130 per stray animal, and the city's animal control budget went from $114,000 in 2010 to $230,000 in 2011. Davis has said that a litter of feral cats born under a Janesville porch could cost the city $2,000.


Peterson recently read an interview with Davis in The Gazette in which Davis said the city is exploring less expensive ways to handle strays.


Peterson said his love of animals is the reason he decided to take a leading role in finding a solution.


Peterson called Davis, and the two paired to lead a group focused on finding solutions.


“It’s a countywide problem that we have to address on a countywide basis,” Peterson said.



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