By Rosemary K. Otzman
As of the first of the year, stray dogs picked up in Van Buren Township will be going to the Romulus Animal Shelter, instead of the Michigan Humane Society in Westland.
At the Nov. 5 regular meeting of the VBT Board of Trustees, the switch to the Romulus Shelter was approved unanimously.
In 2011, VBT closed its shelter and started taking strays to the Humane Society at a cost of $850 a month. Romulus will charge $650 a month, a savings of $2,400 a year.
On Nov. 4, Romulus Animal Control Officer Kim Matthews attended the VBT work/study session to answer questions on Romulus’ services.
VBT Trustee Reggie Miller had gone on a tour of the shelter and reported, “It was excellent. It was clean. They have plenty of room to expand.”
Miller said she was impressed with how involved the community is with the Romulus shelter.
VBT Supervisor Linda Combs said from an economic standpoint alone it makes sense. She said it also is a good partnership with a neighboring community.
VBT Public Safety Director Greg Laurain, who recommended the switch to Romulus, noted shelter at 12300 Wayne Road was closer than Westland, has 24/7 access for officers to drop off dogs, and has status as an EVIP qualifying project for 2014. The EVIP is the Economic Vitality Incentive Program that can bring grants from the state for cooperative projects.
The Romulus Shelter also serves Inkster and Garden City. The participating communities bring their dogs to the shelter, except in special situations.
Laurain pointed out VBT is required by its agreement with the Humane Society to provide 30 days’ notice of intent to terminate the contract, which would require notice be provided by Dec. 1.
Laurain said people can volunteer with the animals and read to them from a library at the Romulus Shelter.
Matthews invited everyone to come to the shelter in Romulus to check it out. She said there are two full-time animal control officers and one part-time, with office hours 8-10:30 a.m. and 2:30-4 p.m. The rest of the day they are out on the road.
She said they just got a brand-new chip reader that reads four or five kinds of identification chips a dog may carry.
Matthews said it costs $35 to adopt and they put the adoptable pets on Facebook and would link that to the VBT site.
Diane Madigan, who was chairman of the VBT Public Safety Committee when Supervisor Combs disbanded it, read a statement asking about follow ups on dog hoarders.
“I think any contract with Romulus needs to include investigations and follow-ups,” she said and Matthews replied that was possible for an additional fee.
Madigan said as a result of a resident’s complaint at a Public Safety Committee meeting, the committee hosted a work-study session on hoarding in July 2011.
The complaint was regarding a neighbor’s house on Buchanan Street where 69 dogs were surrendered to the township Animal Control Officer in 2006.
Madigan said the committee asked the township to develop an ordinance requiring all animals returned to owners, rescued or surrendered to have a license and rabies check and a premises check to insure adequate care is being provided.
Madigan said The Detroit Free Press did an in-depth study on hoarders that concluded that without intervention, recidivism in animal hoarding cases is thought to be nearly 100%.
“And, this is exactly what is happening on Buchanan: In May 2011 another 18 dogs were surrendered,” Madigan went on. “This year, 19 dogs from the Buchanan hoarder’s house were surrendered, using the township as a birth-control service.”
Madigan said the township needs more than a drop-off station. It needs help to enforce state laws and township ordinances.
Matthews said every three months there will be a report on the dogs to VBT, which will tell where they came from, what happened to them, if they are vaccinated. She said she follows up on enforcement efforts, but they start with a warning that gives the dog owner 10 days to get rabies shots, a license, etc.
After that, they get tougher, she said.
By Rosemary K. Otzman