It’s been almost two years since allegations surfaced about the Wexford County Animal Shelter’s Animal Control Officers being involved in heart sticking. Along the way, the shelter has also paid fines to the State for not holding stray animals long enough and not getting animals properly vetted among other violations. Since that time, there has been tremendous community support to save the lives of the cats and dogs in the shelter. Volunteers have shown their support for the animals in many ways – attending county commissioners meetings; volunteering at the shelter; networking the animals and more. Many Wexford County residents now understand that the only way to keep County shelters accountable is to be involved in the politics and the care of the animas. Otherwise, like many County shelters in our state, fiscal mismanagement, bad shelter policies, ignorance and apathy will result in a high death count of cats and dogs that are taken in by the shelter.
In 2011, before there was a spotlight on the shelter, Wexford County killed 723 pets. In 2012, they killed 294. In 2013, they killed 77. Because there are no obvious County policies to point to in order to explain the lower kill rates, the logical conclusion to reach is that the community, in addition to the fines and mandates by the State, are the reasons that more cats and dogs are currently being kept alive and adopted out by the animal shelter. This is why many people are conflicted on whether to vote for the upcoming Animal Control Millage in Wexford County. Although Animal Control services and animal care are needed by the County, many are unhappy that the care of the animals and the policy decisions have remained under the Sheriff’s Department. And because the amount asked for in the millage ($185,500) is less than the current budget (approximately $225,000), many are also concerned that this result in less care, less staffing or not housing stray cats all together, a policy that will go into effect in 2015.
Although there is some support for the Animal Control millage online and in comments, Pet Friends Magazine has found no Animal Control Millage supporters who will personally go on record as to why they agree with voting for the millage that will on the ballot in November.
When Pet Friends Magazine contacted Animal Advocates of Wexford about the millage they stated, “AAOW will not be taking a stand for or against the millage. Taxes are a personal choice made by the tax payer. Our mission IS and always has been to rescue animals, educate the public, find furrever loving homes, and help control the pet population of Wexford County through spay/neuter programs. Our only concern is for the welfare of animals in Wexford County and we can do that by our mission statement and by a cat rescue.”
If the Animal Control Millage isn’t passed, it remains to be seen if the Sheriff’s Office will continue to offer animal control services and dog impoundment through the Sheriff’s Department, using general funds from that department, or if a non-profit organization will step forward to offer to run the shelter. The third option would be to have no animal control services at all except for enforcing the animal-related crimes that fall under the penal code including, but not limited to, animal abuse, neglect and dog fighting.
Below is the actual wording of the millage that will appear on the ballot:
For the purpose of providing a millage for the Wexford County Animal Control Fund, shall the constitutional limitation upon the total amount of taxes which may be assessed in one (1) year upon all property within the County of Wexford, Michigan, be increased by up to 0.20 mills ($0.20 per $1,000 of taxable value) for a period of two (2) years (2014-2015) inclusive?
If approved and levied in full, this millage will raise an estimated $185,500 for Animal Control Fund purposes in the first calendar year. In accordance with state law, a portion of the millage raised may be disbursed to the City of Cadillac Downtown Development and Local Development Finance Authorities.