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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

NorCo: Who Let the Dogs Out?

People like to say they favor limited government. It's easy to make the case, too. We see government inefficiency every day. But is less government the answer? Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think what people really want is a responsive government, one that actually addresses problems. One of these problems, believe it or not, is stray animals. Not terribly sexy, is it? But it's costing us money. It takes police away from other, more important, tasks. It even creates safety concerns. Lafayette College's Meyner Center has some ideas, which it presented in a report to Executive John Stoffa. They all involve more government.

Most of you don't go to municipal meetings unless there is some burning issue, like independent trash haulers or police getting yanked out of schools against their own wishes. Thanks to the Ross Township massacre, there will be less citizen participation. But stray control has been on the agenda in several Northampton County municipalities. A few years ago, it was discussed by Lehigh County's Board of Commissioners. It's a growing problem.

Under the state dog law (Yes, we actually have a state dog law), police and animal control officers must pick up strays. Historically, that has never been a problem. But then the SPCA became a no-kill shelter known as the Center for Animal Health and Welfare (CAHW). Things changed. It began to cost a lot more money. And very often, there was no room at the inn, leaving municipalities to sort things out for themselves.

Take Bethlehem Township, which has the dubious distinction of leading the County in stray dogs, with 150 in 2012. In 2011, a $5,000 budget for the removal of stray cats and dogs ended up costing over twice that amount. In 2012, the Township was slated to spend much as $25,000. Comm'r Michael Hudak complained that "anybody" could bring an animal to the Center at Township expense. He speculated that people moving out of the area could bring their dog or cat to the Center and say, "Look. I found this stray pet."

It's a problem in Bethlehem (100 stray digs in 2012), too. Unable to come to terms with CAHW, police were looking after and even walking strays as the City looked for shelters. These days, stray dogs go to the Christmas City Animal Hospital for a period of 2-7 days while the owner is sought. After that, it's off to Berks County Humane Society at a cost of $200 per animal.

According to the Meyner report, police cheiefs throughout the County are frustrated.
Police chiefs in all of these municipalities expressed frustration with the amount of time it takes their department to process a stray dog. As a result of their municipality not having a contract with a licensed kennel, most of these departments (and several of the others) have constructed small facilities to hold their stray dogs temporarily, and Easton’s facility of six cages is licensed by the state. Police chiefs indicate that the time it takes to find a homefor each dog varies greatly from several hours to several days. No information is available on how many dogs are returned to their owners or sent to shelters or rescue groups. The reality of the current situation is that while state law requires municipal police departments to handle stray dogs, it does not require private animal shelters to accept stray dogs picked up by municipalities.
Then the CAHW became a closed facility, unwilling to accept municipal strays unless there is room, and money paid up front.

As a result, there is now a hodgepodge of 14 licensed animal “holding pens” operated by municipalities in Northampton County, with 197 dogs held between January 2012 to approximately April 2013: Municipal officials spend their days finding homes and/or final disposition locations for stray dogs because they must. Animal shelters will take them, for a price.

And don't mention cats. There is no state cat law. So large populations of feral cats are being ingored., though they may outnumber dogs 4-1.

They Meyner report is recommending a County-wide approach, providing for a centralized shelter

One suggestion is a referendum asking County voters if they would vote for the equivalent of a ¼ mil of tax to solve this problem. This ¼ mil would be a $12.50 cost per year to a homeowner with a property value assessed at $50,000. This would result in approximately $1.3 million per year which could be used for a state of the art centralized shelter/ facility which could solve this issue.

A second possibility is through the county's General Fund, or through a Bond that could include the construction of an animal control center as well as other potential Northampton County priorities such as bridges and a Regional Forensics Center. There may be other viable funding solutions from the 38 municipalities for the construction and operation of this facility.

Whatever happens, it will be up to the next County Executive.

Meyner report on Lehigh County:

Lehigh County hosts two animal shelters: the Lehigh County Humane Society (established in 1906) and the Sanctuary at Haafsville (established in 2012). The Humane Society accepts stray dogs and cats from residents and from municipal agencies in approximately nine municipalities through contracts; the Sanctuary accepts stray dogs and cats from residents and municipal agencies through contract in approximately 13 municipalities (some of which do not have a police department). The Humane Society operates as a kill facility; the Sanctuary is a no-kill facility. The Humane Society charges a flat fee to each municipality based on the size of the municipality and its history of how many dogs and cats have been brought to it from municipal agencies and residents. Based on the number of stray animals brought by either municipal officials or residents in 2012, Upper Saucon, Whitehall, and Fountain Hill each paid approximately $100-150 for each animal. The Sanctuary charges $110 per stray dog and $30 per stray cat. The Humane Society will not accept stray dogs from any municipality not under contract or from any municipality outside of Lehigh County. The Humane Society’s president indicates that the shelter is currently close to capacity (with a daily census of approximately 200 cats and dogs). The Sanctuary is willing to enter into contracts with municipalities outside of Lehigh County at a fee of $110 per dog and $30 per cat.

Meyner report on Allentown:

With a population of 118,000 people, Allentown is by far the largest municipality in any of the seven counties in suburban Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley. The city employs one full-time Animal Control Officer whose duty is primarily focused on picking up stray dogs and cats and bringing them to the Lehigh County Humane Society. According to City Recycling Bureau Manager Ann Saurman, each year the city’s Animal Control Officer and residents bring more than 2,400 animals to the Humane Society for which the city pays the Humane Society $115 per animal. She estimates that the residents on their own bring one-half of the strays to the shelter, which is located in the middle of the city and is convenient and close for many residents. Ms. Saurman told us that she had conducted a survey of many counties and individual shelters within Allentown’s geographical region recently to compare the rates charged by the Lehigh County Humane Society. Her conclusion was that their cost of $115/animal being paid to the Humane Society was fair and typical of other shelters’ charges.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hopefully it is a state of the art facility that costs millions of dollars. We need more county buildings, NOW!

Anonymous said...

In the days before bleeding hearts, the simple solution of giving them a .22 pill kept the stray population in check and was whole lot cheaper.

Anonymous said...

hmm...mixing stray hungry dogs and cadavers? what could go wrong?


I smell screen play...

Clinton Oxford said...

The feral cat colonies in Easton are quite large. Some appear to be maintained regularly, with food in bowls.


Use poison bait.

Anonymous said...

Bernie
Allentown's shelter is not located in the middle of the city. It is located at the southern tip of the city. So that's not accurate and it's hours of operation are not conducive to bringing a lost dog to the shelter if the dog is found at night or early morning. No reflection on the shelter and its staff. They seem very hard working, but the shelter could have longer working hours,
especially at night.

Anonymous said...

People complain about the situation then reject any reasonable solution. Poisoning an animal? Your compassion is astounding. Who's going to collect all of these animal carcasses when they drop dead randomly in view of a bus stop. You'll be complaining about that too. Not to mention the animal cruelty investigations will be on the rise. It's about time the county take control of the problem. As a tax payer I say bring it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

7:03, I know where it is, and would not say it is at the southern tip. It is on the south side, right by the ball fields. It is fairly accessible. The hours are not outside the norm elsewhere.

Bernie O'Hare said...

5:432, Not to mention both illegal and immoral.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Clinton, that's a pretty disgusting idea.

Clinton is right said...

Bo ur bleeding heart is working overtime. First it was the so called poor and now its mutts and cats. Give ur poor a job killing the animals

Anonymous said...

Why is exterminating rats and such considered acceptable, but exterminating dogs and cats is not considered acceptable? what is the difference?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Don't waste my time asking such stupid questions.

Anonymous said...

As many Asian cultures consider dogs and cats delicacies couldn't we make a deal with those communities to sell or give them the animals for cooking? I'm not trying to be flip here. Just thinking outside the box.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't see the humor in your comment. Under state law, animal cruelty is illegal. It is illegal to kill, maim or poison a domestic animal. Under the state dog law, a dog may be humanely killed if it is caught running loose and efforts to locate the owner have failed for 48 hours. If the County or Tps wish to euthanize these animals, they may do so, but must still first keep them for 48 hours and must ry to locate the owners.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't attempting to be humorous. People eat all variety of animals. People are hungry. Animals are available.I don't think it's such a crazy idea and I own dogs and cats.

Anonymous said...

For the cats....22 LR rounds on sale at cabelas 5.95 for a box of 50.

Anonymous said...

Feral Cats kill more endangered indigenous wild life than any other predator in the USA...in fact more than the top 5 predators combined.


Domestic does not equal feral.

Anonymous said...

West Easton pigs are domesticated; yet, pork is a food staple. Domestication needs to be looked at in a different light. The previous comment about dogs and cats as food is not off base. Our country has absorbed many different cultures with many different views of what is food. Perhaps it's time to rethink our narrow view of cuddly pets - especially in a world where they're discarded in such numbers. Animals that are eaten rarely roam free to be discarded.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Clinton Oxford said...

@ 5:46PM

If you find a restaurant that pay's by the pound, you and I can make a mint collecting up Easton's stray's.

Anonymous said...

Bernie
Dixon Street is about one mile from the Salisbury border. If you wish to consider that center city, so be it. This is after all your blog and we like you. No arguing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't consider it the southern tip, and do consider it conveniently located.

Anonymous said...

Never said it wasn't conveniently located. Said it wasn't center city.

Anonymous said...

BITCH FIGHT!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yeah, it is pointless.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 10:20. Most of the strays are pit bulls. So ship them off to China or Korea where the can become Pit Barbeques.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Do some of you have any idea how idiotic you sound?

Anonymous said...

We need to go back to kill shelters. We can't afford to keep dogs no one wants. Stop the madness.

Anonymous said...

Why does this require an expensive government solution?

It seems to me that if it were a major problem, people (and local municipalities) would be willing to pay and there would be ample private shelters filling the need.

Anonymous said...

Would they neuter us if they had the chance?

Anonymous said...

@ 8:27AM

Eugenics (\yü-ˈje-niks\) is the bio-social movement which advocates practices to improve the genetic composition of a population, usually a human population.

It is a social philosophy advocating the improvement of human hereditary traits through the promotion of higher reproduction of more desired people and traits, and reduced reproduction of less desired people and traits.

Yes they would.