Thursday, June 9, 2011

Voice for Animals protests county animal policy

By Eric Fodor, The Daily Register

Voice for Animals Saline County staged a protest on the south side of the Courthouse Wednesday denouncing policies at Saline County Animal Control.

Casey Fritts, organizer of Voice for Animals and the protest, said she tried to post the $170 fee for a female pit bull and two puppies at county Animal Control recently in hopes of rescuing the animals and finding them a home before they are euthanized. When she arrived, she said, animal control officials wanted $510 -- $170 fee for each animal, not just the mother. Fritts said policy for years has been to allow puppies and a mother to go out of the shelter for one fee.

Fritts said the policy was changed because she has been a thorn in the side of Animal Control for months.

"They are doing it to spite me. They are doing it just because it was me," Fritts said.

Dr. Cliff Morris, administrator of Saline County Animal Control, said policy was not changed to spite Fritts.

"The adoption fee is for every animal that goes out of there," Morris said. "She can adopt them, but she has to pay the fee on each of them."

The adoption fee, which covers spaying or neutering, must be enforced strictly, Morris said. In February, a County Board member told Animal Control employees to release a dog to Fritts without adoption fees, Morris said. After the animal was given to Fritts, she called the state Department of Agriculture and reported the animal was in bad condition after being at Animal Control, she said.

Both sides agree an inspection followed the phone call, but stories diverge from there. Morris said a state inspector told Animal Control officials never to allow an animal to leave the shelter without an adoption fee being paid. Fritts said Animal Control was fined over the condition of the animal. Morris said there has not yet been a fine yet, but Animal Control could face a fine due to the dog being released without fees being paid. Animal Control passed a subsequent inspection, so a fine would not arise from the conditions at Animal Control, he said.

"We've always passed inspections. She's putting out a lot of accusations that aren't true," Morris said.

Fritts said Animal Control does not have to charge fees.

Morris said he has advised Fritts to seek tax-exempt status, get a kennel license and become a certified animal rescuer.

"We have people who have an animal rescue certificate that we work with," Morris said.

Animal rescuers may pick up an animal without fees because they are considered responsible for the spaying and neutering of the animal, Morris said.

The three pit bulls have not been euthanized - there is a certified pit-bull rescue person trying to find them a home, Morris said.

"If we have the space and we're not crowded, we try to place all we can," Morris said.

The policy at Animal Control is to try and hold healthy animals that are brought to the shelter as long as possible.

The pit bulls were brought in from Eldorado. Fritts called Animal Control to report the dogs were being kept under bad conditions, along with several other dogs. Eldorado Animal Control Officer Tom Hosman determined the dogs had food, water and shelter and therefore he could not enter the property and remove the dogs, Morris said. He did, however, find the people at the Jackson Street residence did not own the dogs, and got the owner to sign paperwork indicating the dogs are unwanted. The female and pups were then taken to the shelter.

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