Unlike just about every other Animal Control Department in Michigan who funds their staff and services from a millage or general fund, Grand Traverse County gets their funding strictly from dog license fees. Their refusal to fund the Division because it’s not a state “mandated service” means the county’s Animal Control Division is short-staffed and will go back to one part-time Animal Control Officer this month.
With the 2018 budget approved by the County Commissioners last night and no money allocated for the Animal Control Division, they are hoping that the just-released dog licensing campaign yields enough new income to increase staff hours and services back to where they should be.
At the end of 2015, Health Officer Wendy Trute, Administrator Tom Menzel and the County Commissioners at the time were all on board with eliminating the Animal Control Division, hoping to push off the duties on the Sheriff without even discussing the move with him. That move proved to be unsuccessful. Since that time, dog license fees have been the County’s only financial means to pay for Animal Control officers, the vehicles and the services being offered to the county residents. With money running out this month to continue to fund two full-time officers, the County’s Animal Control Ad-Hoc Committee asked for the community’s help to start a campaign to get pet owner’s to license their dogs.
With the support of Commissioner Cheryl Gore Follette, four animal advocates moved ahead with the idea. Animal Control Officer Deb Zerafa, Silver Muzzle founder Kim Skaritt, animal advocate Koren Klumpp and Pet Friends Editor Jennifer Isbell worked together on the project under the recently formed group, ARC – Animal Rescue Coalition. One of the committees of ARC is Animal Control/Government Relations and they hope to be a resource and guiding force to reinstate the Animal Control Division into a fully-functioning department.
Gore Follette put the group in touch with Rich Brauer of Brauer Productions who generously donated his time to film the PSA commercial. A general outline was drawn up and given to Brauer with the theme “are you harboring a fugitive?” and dog actors were commissioned to be in the commercial. The humorous video shows a line-up of dogs in front of a height chart, portraying law breakers who need to get right with the law by getting licensed. You can view the video here.
Brauer is an owner of a five-year-old rescued Pit Bull mix named Tilly and has friends at the Cherryland Humane Society. He was aware of the issues with Animal Control so he was glad to help with the project. Also helping with the ad were Bud Solem and Cherryland Humane Society Board member Amber Elliott. Additionally, Don Rutt let them use the studio for the recording.
In addition to the video, there is also a Facebook page called Get Your Dog Tags GT which contains licensing information and bios of Grand Traverse dogs who are compliant with the law. Additional plans for the campaign including putting together a radio PSA and putting flyers up at local veterinarians to encourage dog owners to license their dogs.
Animal Control Officer Deb Zerafa urges people to license their dogs so that they can get reunited with their best friend as soon as possible. She says, “If a stray or lost dog is found in Grand Traverse County wearing a license tag, it can be reunited with its owner quickly.” There is a website where a finder of a lost dog can look up the owner’s information here.
Gore Follette, an advocate for Animal Control since she ran for office, continues to lobby for a permanent solution to funding the Animal Control Division, including proposing a possible future millage.