Warren County Animal Control will no longer accept owner surrender animals until the full Warren County Commission can consider a policy change that might include a fee for the care of the animal.
The unanimous decision was made during a county Health and Welfare Committee meeting Monday night. In attendance were Commissioners Sally Brock, chairperson, Teddy Boyd, Billy Earl Jones, Diane Starkey and Blaine Wilcher.
The announcement may sound similar to one made in March when the committee approved a policy at the facility that unwanted pets would no longer be accepted if Animal Control was full of stray animals.
Animal Control director Kim Pettrey says she has continued to receive phone calls regarding owners wanting to surrender their pets since March.
“We are getting a lot of calls about owner surrenders,” said Pettrey. “It’s not just the general public. I have gotten calls from former commissioners.”
Pettrey says the former commissioners want special consideration.
“They throw that at me, ‘I used to be a commissioner and you need to come get this dog.’ It’s not fair. I shouldn’t have to show preference to someone who used to be a commissioner, or who is a commissioner, just because they have a dog they want to get rid of but it is happening a lot,” Pettrey said.
The decision was made in March in an effort to reduce the number of animals coming into the facility. The goal was to prevent overcrowding and continue the trend of adoption rather than euthanizing. After almost a year with very low euthanization numbers, three total, the facility euthanized 16 animals in July and 22 animals in August.
Commissioner Brock says placing a ban on unwanted pets may not work either.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” she said. “As soon as we say we are not taking any more owner surrenders, you know what they will do. They will call saying there is a stray dog around here that you need to come pick up. What in the world do we do? We have to do something, but I don’t know what the answer is.”
Pettrey suggested a fee for owners who want to surrender their pets.
“I think, if we are going to continue to accept owner surrenders, we should charge a fee,” she said. “People do ask if there’s a fee. I have a dog right now that’s 6 or 7 years old. They get tired of it and they bring it to me. It’s sad.”
Honesty is a challenge to setting a fee for pets surrendered by their owners, says Warren County Executive John Pelham.
“I don’t have an answer either,” he said. “I think a starting point is we have to assume people are going to be honest with us. I believe they would be. Personally, I would favor, with the challenges that we are having right now, that we create a policy that we suspend accepting owner surrenders.”
Animal Control is for stray animals, abandoned animals, abused animals, and animals that create a threat to the community.
Pelham says he is not in favor of allowing pet owners to transfer their responsibility to the county.
“Ultimately, our goal is adopt out as many animals as we can,” he said. We don’t want to put animals down if we don’t have to. I don’t want the owner to do it either, but it should be their responsibility to take care of that dog. It’s not ours. There was a point in time when that individual said ‘I will take that animal as a pet’ and they need to be responsible for it.”
Pettrey was instructed to deny any animal surrenders by an individual she suspects is the pet’s owner until the full County Commission can consider the situation in October.