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As of this week, the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s Animal Control program has gone 16 weeks, or four full months, sending all potentially adoptable dogs to one of the area’s “no-kill” rescue partners for public adoption. The shelter says this milestone marks the longest “streak” that anyone from the program can recall of not putting down potentially adoptable animals. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has this report.
Before the dogs are sent to area animal rescue groups, the Health Department says it does what it can to bring the dogs up to a healthy status. These efforts include administering a vaccination for five common diseases found in dogs and working with veterinarians in case the animals are injured. The department also brings a groomer in weekly to help keep the dogs clean and treated for worms and fleas. If the dogs are considered potentially adoptable, meaning they are healthy and non-vicious, the department then tries to transport them to a rescue group, like C.A.R.E., to be put up for adoption. It’s up to those agencies to try and find suitable homes for the animals.
Mike Brothers, a spokesman for the department, says that these efforts are important because the department isn’t an adoption agency. So, if owners don’t claim their animals from the shelter within a minimum of five days of their rescue, some never find another home again. The shelter can hold about 80 dogs, and is almost always at holding capacity.
“We’ve been able to boost what we call the ‘claim rate’ and really bring down the euthanasia rate out there. We really rely on and have to work with our partners out there in the community to get the adoption side of the equation working.”
Brothers says the Department hopes that the majority of dogs will stay healthy so that they have a greater chance of being transported and adopted.
“This model of working with these partners and adding more on overtime has just been a few years old now. We’ve had some instances like this before where we’ve gone a fair amount of time with not killing any of the potentially adoptable animals, but I think what’s different now is momentum.”
Brother says the department looks at this situation as an improvement not only to the livelihood of these animals, but as an improvement to public safety.
“There’s a lot of people that would just love for us to be an absolutely no-kill community. It’s hard to find anybody that would disagree with that sentiment. But it doesn’t just happen; it takes a lot of work and a lot of working things through to get there.”
Brothers points out that this streak does not include pit bulls, pit bull mixes and cats. Because of changes made to the city code regarding pit bull registration back in 2006, the shelter is prohibited from allowing pit bull adoption. Also, Brothers says the stray and feral cat population in Springfield is simply too great for the rescue partners to keep pace with.
“We don’t want to look like we are being disingenuous about this, but as far as our rules go, as far as potentially adoptable, those animals don’t fall into that category. Whether you agree with it or not, I’m not trying to editorialize but I just want to be clear that the community knows that that’s where we’re coming from.”
He also noted that there is a new animal issue task force that just officially formed this week. The group is made up of local citizens who will be looking into the entire animal control system in Greene County. He says that the department looks forward to working with them, and hopes the group can give suggestions on how to improve the shelter, or potentially run it differently. He says the task force will go on for many weeks.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.