The pros and cons of changing Animal Controls impound policy

A dog waits at LaBelle Animal Control for it’s owner to find it or for a new forever home. (Submitted photo/Megan Narehood)

Doug Morgan, Animal Control Supervisor, explains the proposed change of LaBelle’s impoundment policy from a five-day stray hold to a three day stay hold to match Hendry County’s newly revised ordinance in response to opposition from animal advocates.

Doug told commissioners the five days hold time is not five days. Stray hold for animals do not begin until the day after they are received at the shelter and cannot end on the weekends when the shelter is closed or on a holiday.

“I have the animals for eight days and a little bit of Tuesday if I get them on Monday morning,” said Morgan.

“The three-day hold is not going to be used every day,” said Morgan, “We have not used the three days hold in the county since it has been passed two weeks ago. It is definitely something we need for the future and today.”

Morgan explained in more detail the dogs he would use the three-day stray hold on.

“It is for the dogs that we cannot handle easily,” said Morgan, “We are worried about them biting us when we put their food in the hole.”

“It isn’t because of everyday capacity issues,” said Morgan, “A larger facility will not fix the problem.”

Morgan said even if you have more room there will always be animals coming in and there will always be other issues.

“You’ll always have an adoption problem,” said Morgan, “You’ll always have a problem trying to find the owner, a problem with money, a problem with space, and a problem with staff.”

Morgan explained having volunteers helping at the shelter will help, but it isn’t going to fix the problem.

“Even if you have volunteers and a higher budget it isn’t going to change the dogs that come into our kennel that are not adoptable,” said Morgan, “You can’t change that.”

“Not all the animals are savable,” said Morgan, “They are all worth trying to be saved, but not all of them can be saved.”

Morgan explained how the animal control staff that cares for the dogs daily can read a dog’s body language to determine their temperament.

“What they do with their tails and their ears, how they stare at you,” said Morgan, “We watch that every day.”

Animal control staff tries to work with dogs daily to change their temperament.

“We talk sweet with them, we kneel down, we try to give them treats, and we let them feel loved,” said Morgan, “A dog that does not turn around in three days is probably not going to turn around.”

Morgan also explained certain dogs are just harder to find someone to adopt.

“Older dogs are hard to find a home for because most families don’t want older dogs,” said Morgan, “A lot of people don’t want a large 100-pound dog or 60-pound dog, they want a puppy that will grow with their kids”

“Solid black and brown dogs are not very attractive,” said Morgan, “most people want a multi-colored dog.”

Morgan explained the difficulty he faces when it comes to finding homes for pit bulls because of the bad name they get from the media.

“I’ve met super friendly pit bulls, sweet loving companions,” said Morgan, “but if a pitt is more than six months of age it is hard to find an adopter for it.”

“I take part of my lunch to post pictures of animals,” said Morgan, “it is not a requirement. They mentioned at the commission meeting they would like to see us posting more pictures, so I am trying to do that.”

“Pet owners need to be more responsible,” said Morgan, “I don’t feel like the tax payers’ money needs to be spent trying to pay people to drive around and locate pet owners when they should be trying to find their pet and that is coming from someone who really loves animals.”

“We need more accountability and responsibility of our pet owners”, said Doug “So if this gets everyone in an uproar to where they all go out and get their animal identi-chipped I feel like we’ve accomplished something.”

Janet Spindle, animal advocate and resident of Hendry County, is opposed to the proposed change in the ordinance.

“My biggest concern is in only three days a pet could be sent to a no kill shelter, adopted out or euthanized,” said Spindle, “We need the five days for our animals to able to be picked up by their owners.”

“Doug says he wants the pet owners to be more responsible, but to teach responsibility you need to educate,” said Spindle, “Passing an ordinance and expecting people to know about it is not going to work.”

Sherri Walker, animal advocate and resident of LaBelle also opposes the proposed change to the ordinance. Walker agrees with Spindle.

“I just think three days is a very short time for someone to go claim their dog,” said Walker, “I don’t understand the benefit for changing it from five to three days. I would rather have a dog have more days for a chance of being recovered, I think the more the better.”

“I think posting pictures has been a great change,” said Sherri Walker, animal advocate. “I also think by them posting the pictures of animals recovered on the Facebook page or any social media page within 24 hours is a great resource, avenue, and tool for people to be able to recover their animals.”

“I agree with Doug that pet owners need to be more accountable,” said Walker, “they need to get their pets chipped.”

Walker knows chips are not always reliable because the chip in her dog failed to be found in Lehigh Acres when her dog was stolen a few years ago.

“I have a problem with the chip,” said Walker, “The only reason I found my dog was through social media and luck. My dog was gone from September-December. I know the chips are not always reliable from personal experience.”

“There are other things that could be done for awareness of vetting and getting animals microchipped other than shortening the life of an animal possibly,” said Walker.

“We are very lucky with Doug and Allen because they are animal lovers. They do an excellent job at what they do,” said Sherri, “I believe they really care about our animals and do a good job of picking them up and trying to get them reunited.”

“We are not guaranteed that they will always be here,” said Walker, “In the future the person who oversees animal control may euthanize animals on day three no matter what.”

“I feel like it is working the way it is, if it is not broken, don’t fix it,” said Walker.

“As a community we the people should be able to give our input,” said Walker, “I think the County Commissioners made a decision and didn’t really think it out. I think it needs to be readdressed.”

Megan can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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