Fiona was a real beauty and captured the hearts of many after reading her bio on the Cherryland Humane Society (CHS) website. This beautiful three-year-old Lab mix came to CHS in the middle of July after she was rescued from living in a house with over 100 other dogs. She was so scared at the shelter that she crawled on her tummy. With the help of staff and volunteers, she learned how to walk and greet people in her kennel and gave licks and kisses to those who would sit on the floor with her. Because she was so scared at the kennel with the other dogs, she was went to a foster home. On August 3d, Fiona escaped from her foster home near Lake George Trail and Spider Trail in Traverse City when the door was opened at the exact moment there was a loud crack of thunder. Fiona bolted. Her foster mom was not able to catch her.
Being such a scared dog due to her previous living conditions, it made Fiona difficult to catch because she wasn’t the type of dog who would go up to strangers. She kept running. Because Grand Traverse County is still without Animal Control services due to the elimination of the Division and the Animal Control Officers by the County Commissioners at the end of 2015, stray dogs are not searched for and picked up by the County. Finding a stray dog in Grand Traverse County is left to the public. Fiona’s post about being missing appeared on the CHS Facebook page and the Grand Traverse Area Lost and Found Pets page. The community kept an eye out for her, posted sightings and some went out to look for her themselves, including a dog tracker. A live trap was also set up in an area where Fiona had been seen.
Unfortunately, 13 days after Fiona went missing, CHS made a post to their Facebook page that said, “We are very sad to report that the search for CHS resident, Fiona, has ended. She was hit be a car last night sometime, and her body was found this morning. We had so hoped for a different ending so she could have the new life she deserved, but we take some comfort in knowing she is no longer running scared. She has been picked up and is being returned to the shelter. Thank you to everyone who helped search and who let us know of sightings. RIP, Fiona.”
This is not the first time a dog has been hit by a car since the Grand Traverse County Commissioners decided to eliminate Animal Control services from the Health Department. There have been others, including a Beagle getting hit in the past week near Chums Corners. Thankfully, the last report on him was that he was stable and the owner was found.
Obviously, dogs were still hit by cars when the County HAD Animal Control Officers, but the dogs certainly had a much better chance of being found and reunited with their owners before the loss of our Animal Control Officers – especially when sightings are reported and Animal Control Officers had an area to search.
Pet Friends Magazine has received many reports from people in the community about things falling through the cracks due to the loss of the Animal Control Division, including hoarders and out of control breeders who have animals living in horrible conditions. Recently, the City of Traverse City got involved in a case and arrested a woman for animal cruelty.
In addition to the animal needs not being served by the County, Townships don’t seem to be enforcing their own animal ordinances and following up on negligent and abusive owners who have more pets than their townships allow and not checking into the licensing of these pets. Our own County has an animal control ordinance that is not being enforced because there are no Animal Control Officers to visit pet owners, write reports and issue citations. Additionally, many pet owners are complaining about Traverse City not following their animal ordinance as there are constant sightings of off-leash dogs in the City – on the Tart Trail and on the beaches.
Currently, the County has two jobs posted for Animal Control staff, for an Animal Control Division which has been turned back over to the Health Department. Both positions are part-time and funded only by dog licensing. The hours are yet to be determined. One of the positions, the Animal Control Specialist, is an on-call position and requires no animal control training at all and the other position of Animal Control Officer is only 25 hours and doesn’t require any State certification until they have been on the job 90 days. That means that we could have a potential Animal Control Officer who doesn’t have any knowledge of experience in animal law or any of the other training that the State outlines for the first 90 days of their employment.
Grand Traverse County Deputy Administrator, Jennifer DeHaan, responded to several inquiries by Pet Friends Magazine including the current status of hiring. She stated, “we are currently in the recruitment process for these positions” and the website shows that the closing date for the Animal Control Officer position is August 29th. As it relates to certification/training, she commented on the County’s position, “this is a requirement for the ACO to obtain (certification) within 90 days of employment. There may be individuals that apply that do not have the certification but that qualify for the position through other knowledge, skills, abilities and experience related to the position.” However, the Department of Agriculture’s website states that municipal Animal Control Officers are REQUIRED to have a minimum of 100 hours of training before they can be hired in the State of Michigan pursuant to MCL 287.289c.
When asked what the County will do if the calls exceed the manpower offered (if the Animal Control staff can’t keep up with the needs of the community), DeHaan said, “we will continue to evaluate the calls for service to determine if additional resources are necessary. If necessary, we may request that the dog-license fee be increased in 2017.”
When Commissioner Christine Maxbauer was asked again about forming an Animal Control Committee, she responded that she would bring the idea of a Committee to the County Board for discussion. She said, “there needs to be a demonstration of public support to form a Committee. By putting it on the Board agenda, we will know if there is public support or not. Staff also must have an opportunity to weigh in during the discussion. This will not occur until after the November election.”