Controlling costs of animal control

Past budget cuts have left the Grand Traverse County Animal Control Department in a difficult situation -- unable to properly serve the need in the area. But several Grand Traverse County Commissioners want to change that and they're looking to add additional staff.

But adding more staff, would mean they must find the proper funding. At one point, the animal control office had three full-time officers to respond to community needs. But in 2004 they cut one position, leaving only two employees on duty. And according to some county commissioners, that has created some big issues in recent years.

Grand Traverse County Commissioner Larry Fleis says, "W need to do something because we should be here to protect the animals, they cant speak for themselves! And a classic example is the horses in the Fife lake region..."

County Commissioner Larry Fleis says the horrific case of horse abuse in Fife Lake back in January shined some light on the Grand Traverse County Animal Control Department's staffing short comings. Fleis says, "We failed to respond adequately to that situation and consequently two horses had to be put to death. they were starved to death, they could no longer make it..."

The unfortuante situation stirred up emotions among commissioners, many who believe there needs to be at least three officers on duty at all times. Tom Buss is the manager of the GTC Animal Control and says, "When somebody's on vacation, with two people, that leaves one person to try to answer calls as well as do field work. On average we have seven to eight dogs in kennel which keeps it busy. Plus you're getting all the phone calls during the day, it's not unusual to have eight to ten different stops..."

But an additional employee would require a funding increase in tough economic times. Fleis says, "Even if we have to spend $30,000 to $35,000 dollars on an employee, I think its worth it to our citizens of Grand Traverse County."

But giving more money to animal control isn't the only option. County Health Department officials are also in talks with Cherryland Humane Society looking to contract with the non-profit to house it's stray pick -ups. While nothing is finalized, County adminstrators put out a proposal to humane society in August to house dogs for $12 dollars per dog or $25,000 dollars a year.

The goal of this is to free up the officer's dog care duties and give them more time to respond to complaints. It's something Cherryland Humane Society is definitely open to. CHS Board President Dr. Dave Burke says the arrangement would definitely benefit the animals.

Dr. Dave Burke released this statement to 7&4 News: "This arrangement can benefit all parties involved. The animals are our first priority at the Humane Society. The dogs involved would benefit in at least three ways: 1. The CHS has better physical facilities. 2. They would be reunited with their owners faster due to increased availability of the Humane Society. 3. Should the dogs not be claimed they would have a much better chance of being adopted into new homes."

The county board will get it's first peak at the proposed budget at it's next meeting which is on September 19th. They hope to have the budget finalized by the new year.