Grand Traverse County Primary Challengers to the Commissioners Speak Up About Animal Control

At the end of 2015, the Grand Traverse County Commissioners voted to eliminate the Animal Control Division from the Health Department and two Animal Control Officers were laid off. The incumbent Commissioners involved in this vote were Christine Maxbauer, Alisa Kroupa, Dan Lathrop, Ron Clous, Carol Crawford, Bob Johnson, and Sonny Wheelock Jr.. Some of these candidates have no primary challengers on August 2nd nor do they face opposition to their candidacy in November.

pug in commission room

The current Commissioners who have primary challengers in the upcoming August 2nd election were contacted along with their opponents for statements on what happened in the past, the current state of affairs and their opinions on the future of the Animal Control Division. Below are the statements of those candidates who chose to respond about the issue and a listing of those who didn’t.

COMMISSIONER – District 1 (Republicans)

Dan Lathrop – no response

Ross Childs

What do you think about how the Animal Control issue was handled, surprising the public and eliminating the Animal Control Officers and most of the Division’s services without any public input?

The transfer of the Animal Control operation was faulty from the beginning. It was done with little forethought and without any discussion with the parties involved. Animal Control was part of the Sheriff’s operation when I arrived in 1975. It was primarily used as a disciplinary action for deputies who had not performed well.

The Deputy was assigned to Animal Control for a period of time, the deputy did not appreciate the assignment, and neither did the animals or their owners. There was a complete lack of understanding what the rights of the Sheriff were with regards to the transfer.

Do you agree with the County’s current idea of only funding the Animal Control Division with current revenue (i.e. licensing fees) and not adding any addition funding to staff the division with two Animal Control Officers as it was in the past?

I believe that the primary funding for the operation should be license fees, and this should be subject to public input and analysis of the ability to pay. I also do not believe the operation requires 2 fully trained officers with coverage 7 days per week.

In 2015, two full-time Animal Control Officers responded to 636 calls. What do you think the County should do if one full-time or two part-time officers can not handle the number of calls the Animal Control Division gets?

My position would be that 1 full time or 2 part time officers would not provide the level of service desired. More important is the is the requirement for proper training and hiring individuals who have care and feeling for animals, and have good skills in dealing with the public.

Do you have any ideas on how you’d like the Animal Control Division to move forward in the future?

I believe that the Animal Control belongs under the Health Department, works closely with the Cherryland Humane Society, local veterinarians and local law enforcement agencies.

Do you support forming an Animal Control Advisory Committee made up of qualified community members?

A local Advisory Committee could be considered with composition to include representation from veterinarians, law enforcement, Cherryland Humane Society, and local concerned animal activist groups.

COMMISSIONER – District 3 (Republicans)

Alisa Kroupa – no response

Cheryl Gore Follett
When asked about what transpired in December of 2015 with the defunding of the Animal Control Division, Follett responded, “The County Commissioner’s initial response of moving animal control to law enforcement was obviously not well thought out. They reversed the decision several months after implementing it. Law enforcement is too busy protecting life and property to also take on the task of responding to issues involving animals.

However, animals, be they pets or animals in nature, need to be protected.  A county animal control officer needs to be available 24/7 to respond to safety issues involving animals.  As a pet lover I would be devastated if something happened to my dog and there was no one to respond to my concern because it was a Friday night. Finding the right funding model needs to be explored. There may be some natural partnerships within the community that would support this endeavor. I think most citizens would agree that our pets need to be protected.”

COMMISSIONER – District 7 (Republicans)

Robert Johnson – no response

Marc McKellar

What do you think about how the Animal Control issue was handled, surprising the public and eliminating the Animal Control Officers and most of the Division’s services without any public input?

It was poorly handled by the administration and county board of commissioners from beginning to end. It was short sighted and lacked any transparency. The transfer of animal control from the health department to the sherriff’s department was unnecessary and woefully underfunded.

Do you agree with the County’s current idea of only funding the Animal Control Division with current revenue (i.e. licensing fees) and not adding any addition funding to staff the division with two Animal Control Officers as it was in the past?

I appreciate that there is a budget strain, and at minimum the licensing fees should be used. But additional funding sources should be considered. Funding based on what is necessary to provide efficient yet sufficient services should be the starting point. They should not be trying to fund a bare bones operation.

In 2015, two full-time Animal Control Officers responded to 636 calls. What do you think the County should do if one full-time or two part-time officers can not handle the number of calls the Animal Control Division gets?

They will need to have the officers prioritize calls. If it is clear that they are understaffed then the County will need to consider additional staffing and funding.

Do you have any ideas on how you’d like the Animal Control Division to move forward in the future?

Animal Control is not a mandated service, but many of our county services are not mandated. It’s really a question of how we want our county to operate. Do we want to provide minimal services, extravagant services or something in between? The reality is animal control is a benefit to our community. Animal owners vary as much as the various breeds of animals and we never know what may happen on a given day. But at minimum we need to protect citizens from unruly animals and owners and assist those animals and owners in need. I would like to see an animal control that is proactive and not just reactive. It is a health, safety and welfare issue.

Do you support forming an Animal Control Advisory Committee made up of qualified community members?

While I’m not sure what that advisory committee’s role or extent of that role would be. Reaching out to the community for advice and assistance in determining best practices, getting assistance with public outreach and suggestions should be welcome.

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One thought on “Grand Traverse County Primary Challengers to the Commissioners Speak Up About Animal Control

  1. Deb Miner July 26, 2016 at 8:31 pm Reply

    Since Ross Childs was a former County Administrator, I think he sees the bigger picture re Animal Control. Reasons he cited re AC is why it was put under Health Department when Fred Keeslar was Health Officer. It thrived. Had up to four officers and a summer dog census person. Under current HD management it has faltered due to lack of respect for the officers, the work they did and a compassion for the animals. HD wanted to dump AC on Sheriff for years and he resisted because he does not have trained staff to handle animal issues. They are dealing with human issues. Ross knows what the history is and where AC needs to go forward.

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