Wexford County takes next step in animal shelter changes

Officials take next step towards solving issues involved with the Wexford County Animal Shelter.

Tuesday night Wexford County Commissioners and the Cadillac City Council held a public hearing tonight to try and help the animal shelter. This is due to the recent allegations of improper euthanization at the shelter that were investigated by the state.

Camille Kocsis of the Manistee County Humane Society spoke about the way their shelter runs. She said they have animal control in their building who takes the animals in, then makes sure they are healthy and neutered/spayed before coming to the adoption side. There is a record for each animal. That shelter takes in as many animals as possible and is a no-kill shelter (they don't euthanize). Because some of the animals end up living there for a long time, they have a large backyard set up and volunteers come in to walk or play with them. The Manistee County Humane Society brings in approximately $110,000/year due to grants and donations. Vet care and payroll are their biggest expense. Kocsis also noted that thanks to donations, they have not paid for animal food in six years. They are proud to not have breed bans, have volunteer trainers, and they take animals from owners (example - if the owner can't pay for the pet anymore). Kocsis also recommended looking at the Best Friends Animal Society in Chippewa County.

Linda Gottwlab spoke on behalf of Pine Cone Farms in Leelanau County. She said they would love to help the cause and work with the community on a solution. "Tell us what you want, we'll try and help you get it," said Linda. She said she can see Wexford County having a no kill shelter, a large backyard, and providing a good life for animals. Pine Cone has submitted a proposal of $104,000 - which only includes operation, not animal control - for the shelter, and is willing to be flexible.

Multiple residents stood up and spoke on behalf of the shelter. They would like to see health tests done before the pet is put through the adoption process (one owner found out later his dog has heart worms) and be able to bring the pet in for immediate emergency care if needed -especially if the pet is still in the foster stage.

CARE of Clare County offered to purchase the shelter and offer affordable training. They started in Clare county to rescue and foster animals.

Melissa Sluiter, an advocate for the shelter, made many points on behalf of the community. Many people would like to see alternate supervision-separating animal control from an adoption side. They would like to see the adoption side put under a 501-3C, whether one takes it over or one is created. They see a need for the streamlining of finances and believe a 501-3C would give county residents the biggest bang for their buck. They would like an accurate record intake for every animal, a shelter that will actively work at getting animals adopted, and a way to ensure animals all receive good vet care/emergency vet care. Community members would like to have more hours of operation (right now the hours are Mon-Fri noon-4pm) - open later or possibly on Saturdays to enable those working during the day to have a better chance to adopt a pet. They would like to see that resources received are utilized, no breeds are banned, and an educational outreach program is created. Residents do see a lot of good ideas and a lot of opportunity for growth. They believe, along with the mayor, that if there are more details included and there is a better plan in place a mileage for the shelter will pass. "We can do better!" Sluiter said.

Many wanted to thank the city and county for coming together to work on this issue.

Officials decided to form an animal control advisory committee made up of seven members, including people from the county commission, the city council, and the public. The new committee will look at other model shelters and gather information to bring back to the public. Every member voted yes in support of forming this committee, and if you would like to apply you're encouraged to contact Wexford County or the city council.

"I'm glad to see that there are some things that were voted on and that there does seem to be some forward motion. I do think that having an advisory committee pull together definitely shows a good faith effort toward the changes that the community really feels are needed," stated Sluiter. She also encouraged the community not to give up yet. "Especially when you're dealing with something that has multiple governments involved - it is slow, it's been frustrating - I have to share in that experience of frustration. I think that with the added pressure the likelihood of change will be much more quick."