Montcalm County committee meeting focuses on animal issues


By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 12:16 pm on Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Montcalm County Animal Shelter Officer Angie Sova plays with one of the dogs awaiting adoption in the Stanton shelter. — File photo

STANTON — The Montcalm County Law Enforcement & Courts Committee meeting was all about animals on Tuesday.

An animal return policy, a kennel ordinance, an exotic species ordinance and the dog census were among the topics of discussion.

The full Board of Commissioners will officially vote on all the committee’s recommendations at the Oct. 22 regular meeting.

 Animal return policy

Nichole Peak of Crystal adopted Max, a dachshund mix, from the Montcalm County Animal Shelter on Sept. 14.

“He was a perfect fit for our family, especially my kids, they thought the world of him,” Peak stated in a letter to commissioners.

Two days later Max became ill. Peak took him to State Road Animal Hospital in Alma, where she learned her new dog had the parvo virus. Max didn’t respond to treatment and was put down.

Peak said she was told by the veterinarian if she wanted to get another dog, she should wait at least six months and clean all carpets, floors, vehicle seats and anything else Max had contacted.

Peak requested the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners reimburse her a total of $952 for the ordeal, including $105 for the adoption fee, $378 for the vet bill, $329 for Stanley Steamer to clean carpet and tile, $100 for vehicle cleaning and $40 for pet bedding and toys.

Commissioners previously voted in July to reimburse $150 of a requested $345.50 by Justin Stonehouse of Grandville, whose family adopted a golden retriever mix from the Montcalm County Animal Shelter. That dog, Phoebe, also turned out to have parvo, but was treated in time to save her life.

During Tuesday’s meeting, committee members voted to recommend the full board adopt an animal return policy to deal with this issue in the future. Committee members also voted to reimburse $189 of the veterinarian bill to Peak.

Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer advised commissioners that the $105 adoption fee would also be reimbursed to Peak.

If the full board approves the return policy, anyone who adopts a dog from Animal Control in the future will be required to sign the new policy, which states in part, “Animals are living creatures and as such cannot come with a guarantee of perfect health or behavior. If something is discovered by your vet and were not aware of the problem or condition while the animal was at the shelter, we are not responsible for treatment costs.”

Animal Control Officer Angie Sova said parvo tests cost $14 each and correct results only show up during a certain time frame, so officers only conduct a parvo test if a dog begins showing symptoms of parvo. If a dog is found to have parvo, the dog is put down, as most animal rescue groups are reluctant to transport a parvo-ridden dog, according to Sova.

“We wouldn’t put it up for adoption if we know it’s sick,” Sova told commissioners.

 Kennel ordinance

Commissioners recommended the full board approve a new kennel ordinance for Montcalm County after hearing a presentation from Sova, who said the state’s kennel ordinance is too vague.

“We generally can’t step in until they’ve broken the animal cruelty law and by that point it’s a huge mess,” said Sova of offenders.

Sova proposed a new kennel ordinance with stricter regulations for people with a kennel license (anyone with three or more dogs would qualify for a kennel license). While new kennel owners would immediately have to comply, current kennel owners would have until 2014 to make changes.

Kennel fees would be $35 for an inspection and $35 for a license for a total of $70 for 10 dogs or less or $50 for an inspection and $50 for a license for a total of $100 for 11 dogs or more. If a kennel has 50 dogs, there is a $3 charge per dog over 50.

The new ordinance would specify the condition of facilities, kennel structure, floors, walls and ceilings, runs and inside pens, lighting, ventilation, temperature, sanitation, removal and disposal of waste, shelter from inclement weather, water and food supplies and vaccinations.

“We’d like to see everyone upgrade,” said Sova of local kennels. “Everybody needs to be on the same page by 2014.”

 Exotic species ordinance

Commissioners also recommended the full board approve an exotic species ordinance.

Sova said the state only regulates large cats, bears and wildlife, leaving the regulation of numerous exotic species unaddressed.

The new ordinance would make it unlawful to own an exotic animal unless the owner is in accordance and licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Michigan Department of Agriculture or is a licensed zoo or sanctuary.

Exotic animals would include primates, alligators and crocodiles, snakes with an adult size of 8 feet or longer, any poisonous reptile or amphibian, any breed or mix of fox, wolf and large breed exotic feline, kangaroos, wallabies, any species of pachyderm or elephant or “any type or animal deemed to be a hazard to the community.”

 Dog census

Commissioners previously approved starting a dog census throughout Montcalm County. An amnesty period took place in March for residents to update their dog’s license before the census and fines began in April.

Hyzer reported on Tuesday that about 50 tickets have been issued so far and about $3,700 has been generated from people who were not in compliance with licensing requirements. People who were issued tickets were given 14 days to purchase a license and the fine was then waived.

The county earned $107,170 in licensing revenue from 2009-2010, $93,181 from 2010-2011 and $114,838 from 2011-2012, according to Hyzer.

In 2008, commissioners voted to lower the fee for delinquent dog licenses from $85 to $25 with the hope that more dog owners would comply with licensing laws.

State law requires all dogs 4 months old and older to have a current rabies vaccination and license.

Dog licenses can be purchased at the Montcalm County Treasurer’s Office in the Administrative Building (old courthouse) in Stanton. Licenses may also be purchased by mail. You must include a current rabies certificate and proof of spaying or neutering.

Call the Montcalm County Treasurer’s Office at (989) 831-7334 for more information, or visit montcalm.org for an online application.

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