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The Daily



07-22-03: More money going to the dogs
Animal advocate reports conditions improved at Mercer County dog pound

The Daily Standard
    Conditions at the Mercer County dog pound are improving, more than 18 months after county officials came under intense pressure to make changes to the dog control program.
    Debra Linn, founder of the Grand Lake Animal Protection League, organized the campaign to draw attention to conditions at the pound, located on the rural farm of dog warden Tom Powell. Linn and her supporters criticized county officials for a number of issues at the pound, including overcrowding, cleanliness, the dog warden's hours, low adoption rates and the method of euthanasia used to destroy dogs.
    Mercer County Commission-ers said at that time they would like to make some improvements but were strapped by the dog pound's budget, generated entirely through license and kennel registrations and fees charged to dog owners whose pets end up at the pound.
    "They have initiated some of our suggestions and things appear to be improving," Linn said. "The dog warden has been absolutely wonderful in working with us. He has done things he doesn't have to do for us."
    While county officials are spending some extra money to improve the pound, Linn and her supporters are striving to increase adoptions from the pound. They have a number of success stories involving dogs they say would have been euthanized had volunteers not stepped in.
    Linn points to dogs like Sir Ramzy, a poodle-rat terrier mix that had suffered two broken legs. The dog was brought to the Celina Animal Hospital by a woman who said she could not afford the necessary medical care for the dog. Linn stepped in to try to save the animal.
    "There was some doubt whether he would walk again," Linn said.
    When the dog was recovering and dragging its legs behind it, another volunteer stepped in and provided the animal with a wheelchair for its back legs. Sir Ramzy has done so well with the medical hardware that he visits nursing homes to show the residents how he deals with his disability.
    Another sad case that became a success story was a dog volunteers named Sooner because, Linn said, "The sooner he got to the vet, the better."
    Sooner was brought to the pound by someone who claimed the animal had nipped at a child. Sooner probably would have been put down after a two-week stay at the pound if Linn had not intervened.
    "There's a lot of other stories coming out of this pound that are more common, but equally sad," Linn said.
    But the animal rights group and county officials are working hard to reduce the number of "sad stories" and euthanized dogs at the pound. County officials have ordered changes in the medical care dogs receive and the method of euthanasia, while Linn's group works to increase adoptions of dogs.
    When concerns were first raised about the dog pound late in 2001, county officials balked at some of the requests because they said they simply did not have the funding. That is starting to change.
    Shelter fees charged to dog owners who reclaim their pets from the pound and other dog pound fees have been increased to improve the pound's budget. Mercer County Auditor Mark Giesige said county commissioners have decided dog license fees for next year will increase from $9 to $11 to bring in additional money. Kennel licenses - for people who own five or more dogs - will increase from $45 now to $55 for next year.
    "We've really worked hard with Deb and her group to make some changes and get some more adoptions out of there," Commissioner Tom Gagel said.
    The extra money has allowed the county pound to switch from carbon monoxide gas to lethal injection as the main method of euthanasia. Animal rights activities claim the carbon monoxide method of killing dogs was inhumane.
    Also, through a partnership between the county, the animal protection league and the Celina Animal Hospital, all unlicensed dogs brought into the pound are given necessary vaccinations. That is critical to making dogs more adoption-friendly and in keeping disease from sweeping through the pound's population, Linn said.
    In the future, officials on both sides of the issue want to work toward more regular hours at the pound and other improvements.
    "The commissioners and the dog warden are doing the right thing. It's the owners of these dogs who aren't responsible," Linn said.


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