Janesville63.1°

Rock County officials meet to talk animal control contingencies

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Catherine W. Idzerda
September 23, 2011
— Harmony Township strays go to the Rock County Humane Society.

Turtle Township strays don’t.


Soon, it’s possible that none of Rock County’s towns, villages or cities would have the humane society as an option, and that concerns Janesville veterinarian Dr. Dean Peterson.


On Thursday, representatives from some of the county’s law enforcement agencies and a variety of elected officials met to consider the complicated—and expensive—problem of animal control.


After almost two hours of discussion, they agreed that a countywide system for animal control was needed. What form that system would take and who would pay for it remain open questions.


Peterson and Janesville Police Lt. Dan Davis organized the event.


“I was concerned about the lack of animal control,” Peterson said.


The police department is concerned about the rising costs of animal control—and who will provide it if the Rock County Humane Society declines to do so.


Angela Rhodes, Rock County Humane Society executive director, told Janesville and Beloit officials last year that the society would no longer pick up strays.


The two cities asked the society for an additional year of services so they could investigate other options.


It’s already happened in other counties.


The human societies in Racine and Jefferson counties no longer do animal control, Peterson said. About 10 years ago, the Milwaukee County Humane Society stopped doing animal control, Peterson said.


Janesville and Beloit recently wrote a proposal asking vendors to bid on providing animal control and care.


“We’ve had some interest and inquires but no completed bids,” Davis said.


How much of a problem are strays?


About 400 dog, cat and ferret bites are reported each year, said Adam Elmer, registered sanitarian with the Rock County Health Department.


About 60 percent of those dogs and 30 percent of those cats have had rabies vaccinations, Elmer said.


Dr. Yvonne Bellay, state humane officer for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, said state law requires local jurisdictions to pick up stray dogs.


Dogs must be kept for seven days. After that, animals may be put up or adoption or killed.


Animal control does not have to be provided by a humane society, but animal welfare and animal control sometimes come together.


Lakeland Animal Shelter in Walworth County is a humane society that also does animal control for the entire county, said Kristen Perry, head of Lakeland.


The organization’s annual budget is about $767,000. About 20 percent of that—about $120,000—comes from its contract with the county.


That amount does not come close to covering the amount the shelter spends to care for the animals it picks up for the county, Perry said. The rest is made up through fundraising.


“We want to make it clear that this works for us; it might not work for everybody,” Perry told officials.


When the humane society in Milwaukee County stopped providing animal control, the county’s municipalities formed an intergovernmental agency, the Milwaukee County Domestic Animal Control Commission. The group is in charge of animal control, and works with local humane societies and rescue groups to place animals.


Could it work in Rock County?


Allan Arndt, La Prairie Town Board member and farmer, expressed concern about humane officers who wouldn’t understand standard agricultural practices.


Roger Anclam, Turtle town chairman, said he’s gotten calls from people who were concerned about farm animals being dirty.


All of the town officials were worried about cost and local control. Would they be able to stipulate what kinds animals would be picked up in their townships?


Peterson and Davis asked officials to participate in a focus group that would consider a countywide solution to the problem.


The next meeting has not been scheduled.



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