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.
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
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.” Continue reading