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JustAnotherDogLover
08-06-2006, 10:17 PM
Overcrowding remains problem at Dothan Animal Shelter


Peggy Ussery / aussery@dothaneagle.com
August 7, 2006


Thelma was found at the intersection of Main and Oates streets in downtown Dothan. The large Saint Bernard was hard to miss.

Even though she wears a collar with the words "Love My Dog" printed on it, she had no tags on and as of late last week her home was a kennel inside an office at the Dothan Animal Shelter. Thelma, as the staff there have named her, is just one of the nearly 4,000 cats and dogs housed at the Dothan Animal Shelter since January.

The numbers have gotten so large that kennels are set up outside the shelterís front door, along the hallways and out back. A new cattery has helped but with no air conditioning in the shelterís indoor cat room, other felines have been placed in kennels outside the shelter.

The shelter began the year with 184 animals. By the end of July, the shelter housed 493 animals. It has euthanized 1,638. Of the remaining animals, 161 were claimed by owners; 131 were taken by the Wiregrass Humane Society; 232 were adopted; 148 went to rescue groups; and 1,134 were taken in by Save-A-Pet volunteers.

Overcrowding at the cityís animal shelter is nothing new. Itís a problem that has plagued the city for years. With rising costs and more animals being picked up or dropped off, Dothan commissioners may look for more financial support from outlying towns that use the shelter.

"Itís not fair to ask the people of Dothan to take care of the countyís problems," Dothan Mayor Pat Thomas said last week. "... If itís going to be a partnership, it needs to be a partnership."

Dothan currently contracts with several towns which bring stray animals to the Dothan shelter for housing. The city charges a fee per day for each animal. Dothan is in the process of renewing contracts with Ashford, Cowarts, Gordon, Kinsey, Madrid, Taylor, Webb as well as the Houston County Public Health Department, which handles rabies cases for Houston County.

While Dothan often keeps animals past the seven days required under state law, the towns have only been reimbursing the city for those first seven days.

Under the new contracts, the city will charge $6.90 a day per animal. But state law now requires animal shelters to euthanize by injection instead of other methods, such as the gas chamber used by Dothan. As a result, the city has to pay roughly $184 a month for hazardous and biomedical waste disposal. The city plans to cover some of that cost by charging towns a $15 monthly fee.

Representatives from local towns said $15 a month isnít a big deal. But if city commissioners follow through on charging towns for the actual time an animal is housed, that could cause a financial crunch for smaller towns using the shelter.

Dothan Police Chief John Powell recommended the city require towns under contract with the animal shelter to cover the costs of housing animals for up to 20 days. But city commissioners want towns to pay for the actual length of stay.

"As far as weíre concerned seven days is all weíre mandated to keep them by state law," said Melissa Knignton, Webb town clerk. "If the people would take more charge of their animals, it would be a perfect world. But I donít think thatís going to happen in my lifetime."

Webb Police Chief Judson McClantock said the town hired an animal control officer last year to help deal with a growing stray animal problem. The first month, Webb delivered about 40 animals to the Dothan Animal Shelter. After that, the town began to average about 10 animals a month.

From January to July, Webb delivered 36 animals to the Dothan Animal Shelter.

The Town of Webb faces what other small Houston County towns face - thereís really nowhere else to take animals.

"We donít have our own shelter out here," McClantock said. "Weíre going to keep using Dothan because we have nowhere else to use."

But animals coming from outside Dothan accounted for only 875 animals housed in the shelter between January and July. Animals from within the city limits of Dothan made up 2,890 of the 3,765 animals housed in the shelter.

As of last week, there were 43 people in Dothan on a waiting list for animal traps to catch unwanted strays.

"Euthansia is not the answer," said Renee Skipper, Dothan Animal Control supervisor. "We must get out to the community."

And where public awareness falls short, Skipper said the City of Dothan may need to review animal control ordinances and follow the lead of other cities. Huntsville, for example, requires that all animals be registered and even limits the number of animals a resident can own or shelter.

Skipper said it werenít for volunteers with groups like Save-A-Pet, the shelter wouldnít be able to function as it does. But, she said, the shelter is outdated and the cityís animal problem has outgrown the facility.

"I want this shelter to be a shelter that people look at as a resource, not a place where people drop off animals and throw them away," Skipper said. "If we donít get out to the community, weíre going to always have the problem and always have the animals."


**According to these numbers, that is 627 dogs and cats PER MONTH being picked up or brought in to our local shelter. Including the surrounding towns this article mentions, we're talking a total (human) population of around 80,000.**