Ask the Vet: Change in stray problems warrants re-evaluation
Dr. Amanda Bruce
The City of Superior has changed its plans for animal control, deciding not to proceed with plans for a new animal shelter — at least not yet.
Unfortunately, many animal-loving people in our community reacted negatively to this news, assuming it meant only bad things for animals in Superior and Douglas County.
Much of the concern I heard was based on use of the term “seven-day, hold-only” facility. This was an unfortunate use of words included in statements by Animal Allies Humane Society. The term has a negative connotation, leading some to worry that stray animals would be euthanized after seven days.
Not true. Seven days is merely the period for which a municipality must legally maintain responsibility of a stray dog or cat before it can enter an adoption program.
I have been involved in meetings about the Superior shelter project since 2008. City officials and employees have always been driven by a desire to improve the outcomes for animals in our community.
The city, like other municipalities in Wisconsin and Minnesota, is required by law to provide services for strays. Most often, animal control duties fall under the police department, as strays pose a potential risk to public health and safety.
There are two common models for moving strays through the animal control process and into adoption programs. One is for a city or county to care for strays in its own facility with its own staff and then transfer the animals to another agency for adoption. The second model is for the government to contract with a provider, usually a non-profit, that cares for strays and then puts them into its own adoption program.
Duluth follows the first model, transferring strays from its Lincoln Park “stray-hold only” center to Animal Allies’ adoption center after seven days. Superior has followed the second model. The building on Hill Avenue houses strays, which then go into an adoption program at the same location under the same management agency (formerly ARF, now Animal Allies) at the end of their stray hold.
According to a recognized method for reporting animal shelter numbers, we have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of animals entering animal welfare programs in the Twin Ports. In 2013, the number of dogs and cats needing adoption services in Duluth and Superior was about the same as the number needing those services in Duluth alone in 2010 — just under 2,300.
Clearly, these numbers are moving in the right direction. And they are even better than when discussions began in 2008 about what to do with stray animals in Superior.
I suggest that we are seeing the power of a community at work. That community is the entire Twin Ports region, where we are doing a better job controlling and adopting stray animals — and where another adoption building probably isn’t necessary.
If people in the Twin Ports can travel across our region to work, shop and go out to dinner, isn’t it reasonable to assume that they will do this also when it comes to adopting a pet? I know many people who already do. I suspect you do, as well.
Superior and Douglas County officials have evaluated the trends and are trying to develop a more cost-effective plan to meet our community’s needs. Those plans may not require a new shelter building. City officials recently spoke with the Humane Society of Douglas County about working with them to provide improvements to the Humane Society’s existing facility.
If the Humane Society elects to proceed, it would contract with the city and county to provide stray-hold services to both government entities. At the end of the hold period, the Humane Society could place animals into its own adoption program or transfer them to other regional shelters, such as Animal Allies in Duluth, where a modern adoption center was built just five years ago with donations from throughout the Twin Ports.
As a citizen of Superior, a veterinarian and an animal lover, I appreciate our government taking a closer look at the numbers, re-evaluating the need for services — and making a fiscally sound decision that also benefits animals in our community. That’s what our local leaders are trying to do.
Dr. Amanda Bruce of Superior is owner of PetCare of Duluth, 2701 W. Superior St., Suite 102. You can reach her at drbruce@PetCareofDuluth.com or 218-461-4400. For more information visit PetCareofDuluth.com.