Just over a year ago, St. Clair County Animal Welfare Advocates led the call to action for change at St. Clair County Animal Control. On a warm June evening, the Animal Services meeting was attended by more than 150 community members demanding answers; calling for change.
People in the crowd criticized the county for not giving parvovirus vaccines, how money is allocated in the animal services budget, euthanasia procedures, whether there was a preference of certain dog breeds, efficient use of county software, use of volunteers, among many other things. The changes they called for included using computer software to identify areas with a high amount of strays, implementing humane treatment of dogs, and vaccinating animals at intake to reduce the incidence of communicable diseases.
Thirteen months later, what has changed?
After that meeting on June 26, 2016, SCCAWA began meeting monthly with County Chairman Mark Kern, St. Clair County Animal Control Director Jim Jacquot and staff, and a handful of rescue representatives. Several very positive outcomes have been realized from the closed-door sessions:
▪ SCCAC agreed to vaccinate dogs at intake as of January 1, 2017. SCCAWA successfully raised the money necessary to provide vaccines for the entire year. To date, there have been no outbreaks of disease at SCCAC as a result.
▪ The Adoption Center is now offering for adoption Pitbulls and Pitbull mixes.
▪ SCCAC employees dedicated a lot of time and effort training how to more effectively use the Chameleon software they had purchased several years ago. As a result, SCCAC can now pinpoint what areas of St. Clair County have a high population of stray animals and feral cats. Additionally, fine-tuned statistics have allowed SCCAWA to apply for grant money to offset the cost trap-neuter-return of free-roaming cats.
▪ Thanks to fundraising events and donations, coupled with passionate cat-trapping volunteers, SCCAWA has been able to trap-neuter-return 42 cats since March of this year.
▪ On December 19, 2016, St. Clair County agreed to become a no-kill community. SCCAWA is leading the charge in creating the framework for no-kill, based on tried-and-true practices already in use across the nation. SCCAWA hopes to have a plan in place with SCCAC before the December 31, 2017 deadline and are confident no-kill can be achieved long before the 2021 deadline.
▪ In February 2017, St. Clair County passed a Community Cat Ordinance, allowing for the legal trap-neuter-return of free-roaming cats throughout the County. SCCAWA is championing the effort to bring all towns in the County on-board with the life-saving effort to prevent the un-necessary killing of feral cats and kittens. The Community Cat Program will play an important role in increasing the live release rate from SCCAC and is one of the steps required to achieve no-kill.
▪ SCCAWA solicited donations from Nylabone and was generously rewarded with bones for all the dogs residing at SCCAC, providing much needed enrichment during their stay.
There is so much we have yet to do. We need more veterinarians on-board to provide low-cost spay or neuter for feral cats. We need more humane traps. Volunteers to help with tasks. Funding for vaccines and Frontline. And so much more. We are confident the community will step-up and join in to make no-kill possible in our county.
There indeed has been decisive progress since that meeting last June.
The strides taken to date have kept SCCAWA invigorated, though there is so much more yet to be done. If SCCAC is to attain, and sustain, an animal save-rate of 90 percent or higher, there needs to be a volunteer program, foster program, pet retention program, community involvement, medical and behavior prevention and rehabilitation programs. SCCAWA is driven to help make it a reality.
Sheila Ford is co-founder and president of St. Clair County Animal Welfare Advocates.