EDITORIAL: Crenshaw, rip off that Band-Aid

Published 4:01 pm Thursday, September 4, 2014

Alethea Gammage did not go into veterinary medicine to kill animals. But, that is what she found herself tasked to do.

Commissioners had a longstanding arrangement with Gammage to send all strays her way. Gammage charged a discounted rate and commissioners got by without ever having to find funds for a more permanent solution to Crenshaw County’s stray dogs and cats.

Gammage has chosen to end this arrangement and who can blame her?

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According to Alabama Law (Section 3-7A-7), it is the duty of each and every county in the state to provide “a suitable county pound and impounding officer for the impoundment of dogs, cats, and ferrets found running at large…”

Crenshaw County has skirted by this law for years, using Gammage and other veterinarians as Band-Aids.

A permanent solution is long overdue. Finding that solution will involve making tough budgetary decisions. Commissioners have said their hands are tied. The county cannot afford an animal shelter, let alone an impounding officer. The funds just aren’t there.

The first thing that has to change is that dialogue because an effective animal control program is no less necessary than any of the county’s other public safety components. Animal control agencies protect the health and welfare of residents by minimizing the frequency with which animals damage property, threaten or injure people, cause automobile accidents, disturb the peace or spread disease.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and start drafting a plan. A lasting plan will need to include impounding and euthanizing strays.

Crenshaw County will also need to subsidize spay/neuter programs and educate the public. Experts say an effective animal control program will save cities and counties on present costs and reduce the cost of animal control in the future. A county that impounds and euthanizes 4,000 animals today – at a cost of $50 to $90 per animal – but does not promote spay/neuter programs or educate the public will euthanize 4,000 animals in a decade.

A lasting plan will also need to include a partnership between the county and nonprofits like the Crenshaw County Animal Society. The organizations will play a vital role in staffing and raising funds for the county’s animal control program.

There are no easy answers to Crenshaw County’s animal control program, but ripping off the Band-Aid is a step in the right direction.