By Pat Maurer
According to the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance, the Clare County Animal Shelter, located at 4038 Hazel Road, Harrison, was the most improved medium shelter in Michigan in 2015.
“We were absolutely thrilled to get this award,” said Shelter Director Ruanne (Rudi) Hicks Monday, pointing to the Outstanding Performance Award in the shelter entry.
She has good reason to be proud of their accomplishments. The Shelter is nothing like an old fashioned “dog pound.” It is spacious, clean and filled with new roomy cages for the dogs all paid for by an old (found) millage and installed just last May.
The former dog cages have been recycled now to provide much more living space in a separate clean and spacious room for the Shelter’s cats and kittens.
They also have built a new outdoor pavilion, paid for from grant funds, where, weather permitting, the shelter dogs have individual runs for fresh air and exercise each day, complete with a roof to shelter them from sun or rainy weather.
The shelter also has a policy to place all animals. “We seldom euthanize animals anymore.” Rudi said. Euthanization is only by request for aged, seriously ill or aggressive animals. The rest are placed in homes, or transferred to other agencies and rescue organizations.
Grants have been a huge help for the facility, Hicks said. They just were awarded a $10,000 grant from Pet Co for spay and neuter procedures in 2017. They also received a grant for $2,000 from Michigan Pet Fund Alliance and another $2,000 for their spay and neuter program from S.A.F.E. (Save Animals From Euthanization).
“This will make a huge difference for us this year,” Rudi said. She said the shelter also received a $15,000 grant in 2015 from Pet Co which paid for the new exercise pavilion, which was completed earlier this year. Two local veterinarians, Surrey Vet and Clare Animal Hospital, provide spay and neuter services at a reduced price for the Animal Shelter pets, while another area Vet, Dr. Hamilton, also comes in to the Shelter to spay and neuter the public’s pets for a reduced rate. “This has made a huge difference in the amount of cats brought in and offers owners a low cost alternative,” Hicks said. The reduced spay and neuter for the public is by appointment and fills up quickly, she noted.
It is one of the things that has made a difference in the amount of animals turned in at the shelter. “In 2016 we had 763 come in,” Rudi said, “That is a much lower intake than in previous years.”
On Monday, the shelter housed 35 animals, 21 cats and kittens and 14 dogs and puppies. They have space for 40 dogs and 50 cats. Two of the puppies currently in the shelter are alive only because of an area hunter’s kindness. “They (two lab-mix puppies) were found far away from any house, in the woods near the Lake George area,” Rudi said. “They were starving – people can be so cruel sometimes.”
She said that just in the last five months in Clare County, seven dogs have been shot and six died. “These were pets,” she said, “that just wandered onto another person’s property.”
She continued, “There is a leash law; You can defend yourself, family, another person or an animal or livestock that is being attacked, but you cannot shoot a dog just for being on your property. It is illegal. If there is a problem it is better to call us.”
The dogs that have been shot during incidents all over the county, Rudi said. One was in Surrey Township, one in Harrison, one in Franklin, one in Winterfield and two in Hamilton Township. “They were not shot by the same person,” she said. It started late last summer and the most recent incident was in late last summer and the most recent incident was reported Wednesday. One man, Nicholas Sharp, was that only one that has been convicted in connection with any of the shootings. Sharp was convicted of animal cruelty and unlaw discharge of a weapon after he shot a small dog in Farwell. He was fined and given probation.
The dogs that were shot in Clare County were all sizes and breeds and they were not aggressive. “And we never got a complaint on a single one of them,” Hicks said.
With the recent “Logan’s Law” enacted last month, shelter officials may soon be able to screen and identify animal abusers wishing to adopt animals.
The laws, called one of the first steps in keeping animals out of abusers’ hands, were signed into law December 28 by Lt. Governor Brian Calley.
The bill would require animal control or protection shelters to search the Michigan State Police’s Internet Criminal History Access Tool database before adopting out animals. The fee to use the directory would be waived for animal shelters operated by a local or county government or by a nonprofit humane society or animal rescue.
The law says if a person is on that MSP list they can’t adopt another animal from a shelter for five years. Legislators have been working on the law for several years. The legislation passed the State House on December 15. Other bills in the Logan’s Law package would amend the state penal code to prohibit a person convicted of animal abuse from owning or possessing an animal for five years and would waive fees from the state police for a criminal record check. The bills have been passed by the Michigan Senate, but not brought to a vote in the House.
“The legislation signed into law will make it easier for us to identify animal abusers,” Hicks said. “We should be able to implement it this year when we are able to access the new data base that is being developed.” She said animal abusers sometimes move from county to county to avoid identification. The Clare County Animal Shelter is all about adoption. They had a 93 percent adoption rate in 2015 (2016 totals are not available yet).
They hold at least two adoption events every month to try and place animals in loving homes. The next event will be held at the Family Farm and Home store in Clare on February 14. They also showcase their animals at events including Farwell’s Festival of Lights (they won the best float award in the parade this year) Harrison’s Street Fair, and the Mid Michigan Community College picnic each year.
Animals are also featured every week in the Clare County Review. “We get a lot of calls from those,” Rudi said. In fact, the Review will have a special section in the newspaper next week, on January 13, called the “Adopt A Pet” pages, which will feature adoptable pets sponsored by local businesses. To participate call the Review at 989-386-4414.
The staff at the Clare Animal Shelter includes two full time, Director and Animal Control Officer Hicks and ACO Bob Dodson. Part time employees include Terrie Lloyd and Maggie Brooks as office staff and Glenn Wilcox, Ray Evans and Harry Harper as kennel staff. In addition there is Charles Kelsey from Experience Works and Jackie Handy from Region VII Area on Aging.
The Shelter also has a ten-member core group of volunteers including Head Volunteer Susan Campbell, and fellow volunteers Melanie Hurst, Heidi Stover, Shyann Hilla, Jennifer Woodbury, Jeremy Zebrowski, Chasity Haight-Woodbury, Linda DeLong, Heather Schafer and Anna McNeil. “We couldn’t do it without our volunteers,” Rudi said.
The shelter is located east of Business 127 just off Cranberry Lake Road in Harrison. They are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The phone number is (989) 539-3221.