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Humane Society president wants animal-control progress to continue

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

TELL CITY - The president of the Humane Society of Perry County hopes to help continue progress made by a number of people in recent years toward eliminating the abandonment or maltreatment of domestic animals.

Jim Carter told the county commissioners at their Nov. 5 meeting he'd been working the last two years "on a mission to convert the Humane Society to the 21st century from the 18th century," so he was unable to get involved in other efforts, such as the drafting of an animal-control ordinance.

The county has seen quantum leaps in its animal-control efforts during that time, including the renovation of a building in Cannelton into a state-of-the-art shelter and the hiring, training and equipping of an animal-control officer.

"We have a facility that took years to build and we have a shelter manager who's been learning at an incredible rate," Carter said Friday of progress thus far. Priorities he feels still must be addressed are determining how to handle large animals, and encouraging more pet owners to spay or neuter their animals and vaccinate them against rabies.

Foster Homes for Horses

The shelter can accommodate dogs and cats, but has no room for horses, about which Carter said he receives one to three calls per month. A large-animal committee has been formed from among Humane Society members to address their needs.

"I'm asking them to come up with a formula to enhance the animal-control ordinance," Carter said. "The key is finding foster homes."

Any time a horse is moved to foster care, "a committee member would go through a checklist to ensure it doesn't go from one bad situation to another," he said.

People who'd like to provide foster care should be prepared to shoulder medical and other costs in addition to providing adequate facilities, he explained.

"The Humane Society may help with some fees," he said, "but we're limited."

Cattle and pigs could also be included in a database being created that would contain information about people willing to provide foster care for neglected or abused animals, "but we're focusing on horses because people can make money off of cattle and pigs, so they will feed them first," he explained.

With less financial benefit tied to keeping horses well-fed, he said, they're more likely to suffer from drought-created shortages, such as a regional hay deficit The News reported in October. Recent rains have reduced the effects of that problem for the time being, Carter said, but he cautioned they could resurface in coming months.

Carter told the commissioners the Humane Society has had numerous complaints about what animals and how many can be accepted at the shelter.

Expanded Responsibility

The county's animal-control officer, Micah Jackson, reports to the shelter's board of directors, Carter noted. Jackson can look into issues concerning animals other than dogs and cats, he said, but doesn't because the shelter can't accommodate other animals.

Carter would like to see Jackson's duties expanded to include them because Humane Society members have no authority to go uninvited onto private property or to impound animals.

An officer with the proper authority must assess situations and prepare reports that will bolster court cases, Carter noted.

He also said simple steps can prevent horse owners from having their animals taken. A horse that's ill, for example, could withstand cold, wet weather if a simple lean-to with a small roof were built in its pasture to protect it from wind and rain. The animal's illness may prevent its coat from producing oil that would otherwise allow rain to run off its back, he explained.

Jackson said most of the calls he receives are about loose dogs, with some concerning feral cats, and that he refers those about other animals to conservation officers.

Because he was hired late in the year, money budgeted for his part-time position earlier in 2007 allowed him to work full time.

Young Blood Needed

Carter said his organization intends to form a youth group next year, a step he called "the key to the continuing existence of the Humane Society."

Kim Strobel, a Perry Central Community School teacher until she moved to William Tell Elementary School this year, turned teaching goals into real-world advertising efforts that resulted in the adoptions of shelter animals.

"That's what Kim did," Carter said. "The kids went home and got their parents excited."

He said he became the Humane Society chapter's president with an intent "to bring youth in; we're having a problem finding young people."

Commissioner Don Sherry said he'd like to see any proposed ordinance changes in writing and would welcome any efforts the Humane Society could make toward easing the county's financial burden.