When working within the system doesn’t work to save the lives of shelter pets, many animal advocates have realized that they have to get into something they never thought they’d have to deal with – politics. Unhappy with the current Animal Shelter Director, Stepheni Lazar, and the policies at the Genesee County Animal Shelter, animal advocates are publicly supporting three animal-friendly Genesee County Commissions on the ballot on November 4th who also believe that changes at the animal shelter are needed. Voting in Commissioners who want to make changes at the shelter is the quickest way to save more animals – and allow them to be held in better conditions by implementing better policies because the Commissioners set the policy and they have the power to hire and fire the Director.
When Director Walt Rodabaugh resigned in July of 2013, Stepheni Lazar (currently the Chief Animal Control Officer according to the county’s website) was appointed by the board to serve as interim director. According to MLive.com the appointment wasn’t met with relief or optimism. Robera Angelo, a member of the citizen advisory committee and a member of GRACE , commented, “We’re disappointed in the choice of interim director” citing a 75% euthanasia rate during Lazar’s previous tenure as director which ended when she left the department in March of 2012.
Animal advocates have not been happy with the shelter’s policies and treatment of animals under director Lazar. Volunteers have had many allegations against the shelter include hosing down cages with the dogs as well as their food and water still inside of their cages (NOT allowed by the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture who regulates animal shelters); not walking dogs – leaving them in their cages for days; “hiding” animals from owners and possible adopters by holding them in different areas of the shelter which are off limits to the public and volunteers link to door; ignoring medical issues of pets at the shelter photo of blood and dog; killing feral cats on intake (they are NOT allowed to do that as there is a stray hold law in Michigan); sick cats being adopted out costing new owners a lot of money with vet bills; not vaccinating on intake; not treating sick cats with a simple antibiotic when they have Upper Respiratory Disease; ventilation issues with the shelter; filthy dog kennels; and not keeping the animals dry and clean (see inspection report) – It appears to many that they simply lack the creativity and compassion to save the animals in the shelter or operate under better conditions, even though many volunteers are at their disposal to help them. In 2013, the shelter took in 2831 dogs and killed 980. They took in 2337 cats and killed 902. Those high kill numbers are unacceptable to many taxpayers and animal lovers in Genesee County.
Genesee County has nine County Commissioners and five are needed to support positive change (a majority vote). There are currently three animal-friendly Commissioners guaranteed to continue to have their jobs in January because they are unopposed on the November ballot. These Commissioners are Jamie Curtis, Tony Brown and Michael Lynch. Two more animal-friendly Commissioners are needed. GRACE and other animal advocates are supporting Bryant Nolden (District 1), Jim Slezak (District 9) and Mark Young (District 4). You can read more about why your votes are needed here. If you are living in Genesee County and are unsure what is on your ballot on November 4th, please click here for a sample of what your ballot will look like and where your polling place is.
Genesee County is also asking for a new millage of 0.20 mills (20¢ on each $1000 of taxable valuation) that lasts for seven years, expiring in 2020. This money will supplement and support operations and “modernization” of the Genesee County Animal Control Shelter and is estimated to provide revenue of $1,705,467.42 in the first year of the authorized levy. According to MLive.com Director Lazar says that more animals are currently in danger because of the increase in the county’s unemployment, vacancy and crime rate. She says that the animal control department has undergone dramatic cuts in recent years including having losing five staff members since 2009.
Pet Friends Magazine takes no stand on the millage but asks the taxpayers of Genesee County to vote in the November election for candidates Bryant Nolden, Jim Slezak and Mark Young.