June 27, 2008

Animal Dumping Rising at Humane Society: Leaving Pets After Hours at No-Kill Facility is Criminal Offense

By James Mayse, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

Jun. 27--The Owensboro-Daviess County Humane Society usually has a waiting list of people who want to surrender dogs and cats to the no-kill facility.

But, recently, Humane Society staff members have seen an increase in people dumping animals outside the facility after business hours.

The animal dumping -- which is a criminal offense -- is straining the nonprofit Humane Society's limited budget.

"It has been bad lately," said Humane Society board member Melinda Hood. "We keep getting little lab puppies with mange. We get the idea they're from (the same) litter."

The Humane Society has always suffered from a certain amount of after-hours animal dumping. But the volume of animals being left at the West Second Street facility has increased, said Humane Society president Carmel McLeod.

"It's so bad this year, it's incredible," McLeod said. McLeod said she believes people drop animals off at the Humane Society after business hours because they do not want to take them to the Daviess County Animal Shelter.

"Since we're truly a no-kill facility, everyone wants to use us," McLeod said. " ... But (people) are just killing us because they're giving us litter after litter.

"Right now, we're bursting at the seams because we're not getting the adoptions," McLeod said. " ... People have to realize we are only so big."

State law and the county's animal control ordinance have prohibitions against animal neglect, which include abandonment. The county ordinance defines abandonment as "leaving such animal for a period exceeding 24 hours without food or water."

County attorney Claud Porter said people could still be cited under the ordinance, even if they believe the animal will be found by a Humane Society staff member within 24 hours.

"The ordinance does say, 'for a period exceeding 24 hours,' " Porter said. "They could argue once the Humane Society took it over, it was no longer abandonment.

"We can argue that, 'you didn't know' " the animal would be found, Porter said. " 'All you did was leave them there.' "

People cited for violating the animal control ordinance can be fined between $25 and $500 per violation, with the penalty compounding for each day the animal was abandoned, Porter said.

State law includes abandonment as animal cruelty, which is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable with up to one year in jail and a $500 fine.

McLeod said the Humane Society is installing surveillance cameras to watch the premises after-hours. Anyone caught on tape dropping off animals will be sued for housing the animal and for any medical costs.

"It's not going to stop it, but it's going to get us back the money," McLeod said. The drop-offs cut into the Humane Society's limited funds, Hood said.

"The sad part is, so often, they'll bring sick animals," Hood said. In the case of the puppies with mange, medical treatment will require weeks kept in isolation and "hundreds of dollars" in treatment costs, McLeod said.

Much of the problem could be corrected by people spaying and neutering their animals. The Humane Society provides low-cost spaying and neutering at the rate of $40 for cats and $60 for dogs.

"The main thing is people need to be responsible," Hood said. "Bring the mama dog in and get her spayed. Then you won't have waste (gasoline) dumping puppies."

"There is a solution to this ... The main solution is to spay and neuter your animals," McLeod said. "It makes sense to spay and neuter them."

To learn more

For information about the Humane Society's spay and neuter program, or to schedule an appointment, call 302-6813. For adoption information, visit the Humane Society Web site, at www.owensboroangels.petfinder.com.


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