Roaming pets are straggling problem

By CANDY NEAL
Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Pets must be either contained in an owner’s yard or on a leash in the owner’s control.
Animals are not to run the streets freely.

Those are the rules in Jasper, but they havebeen ignored — and pets running around freely has been an ongoing problem.

“We get calls on a weekly basis about dogs and cats running around in neighborhoods,” Police Chief Mike Bennett said Thursday. “Most of them belong to someone, and they will eventually come and claim the animal.”

The problem could be remedied if people would make sure they have identification tags on their pets, said Jill Cravener, administrative assistant at the Jasper Street Department, the entity that has to pick up the stray animals and house them until the owner is found.

“That would solve a lot of problems and save a lot of time and energy,” she said. The majority that come to the street department do not have tags, she noted.

When the Jasper Common Council met Wednesday, members talked about the issue of animals roaming the streets. Two of the councilmen said they had received calls from people complaining about loose dogs and cats.

In May, the police received 23 animal complaint calls and one concerning an animal bite. In April, the department had one call about an animal bite and 25 other complaint calls.

Police responded to 347 animal-related calls in 2012 and 404 in 2011.

“Your animal is supposed to be in your yard or, if out walking, on a leash,” Bennett said. “If we have to come out, you will get one warning. After the first offense, you can be cited and fined, and that’s what we’re doing.”

The street department collected 96 animals in 2012, including two adult dogs and six newborn puppies that were left by a tenant who moved out of an apartment. Those went to the Dubois County Humane Society.

Of the other 88 animals, 66 were claimed by their owners. The street department found homes for the other 22.

Cravener said the department took in a lot of dogs during the first two months of spring. “In March we had 18 dogs and in April we had 10,” she said. “And that’s a lot for us.”

The street department has three outside covered kennels and two indoor collapsible kennels to house dogs until their owners can be found. The department can take only dogs, Cravener said.
“We feed, water and walk them,” she said. “Different guys or I’ll do that at the beginning of the day and at lunch. Someone comes in and does it at the end of the day.”

While caring for a dog, Cravener does what she can to get the word out about the animal. That includes getting announcements on the radio, advertising in the newspaper, running information online at Petfinder.com and putting up signs at the Rural King store. This process tends to work, she said.

“The last dog we had here was on Monday. We announced it on the radio Monday afternoon,” Cravener said. “The owners heard it and picked him up Tuesday morning.”

If no one comes forward, the department uses Petfinder to find the dog a new home. “We’ve had a lot of success with that,” Cravener said.

Taking care of an animal does take time and some money. “But we make the effort,” Cravener said. “It’s not the animal’s fault.”

She remembered taking care of one dog in April that had been hit by a car but whose owner was never found. “We took him to the vet. There was an organization in Jasper that helped with the dog’s medical bills,” she said. “We nursed him back to health and found him a great home. It took a little time and effort, but it was worth it.”

Cravener said the department has received donations from groups and individuals, including staff, to care for the dogs. So the financial cost to the department is minimal.

But there is a cost, she said. Caring for the dogs takes time out of the workers’ schedules during the day, and a person is on standby for overnight calls from the police department.

“We don’t want people to see us as a shelter. We’re really not that,” Cravener said. “We’re still the street department.”

Contact Candy Neal at cneal@dcherald.com.




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