By Karen Rau
Marshfield Area Pet Shelter President
What is an animal control program, and how does it differ from a humane organization?
An animal control program is a taxpayer-supported service provided by cities or counties for the purpose of providing public health and safety, law enforcement, animal regulation, and licensing. Animal control agencies normally pick up strays, contend with dangerous dogs, and respond to animal nuisance calls. Animal control agencies can elect to house stray animals within their own facility or contract these services to another entity.
Humane organizations are not-for-profit charitable organizations that receive no federal or national funding but instead rely solely on philanthropic sources, individual donors, bequests, grants, and fundraising efforts. Some humane organizations that contract with local governments receive a portion of their funding from the taxpayers for animal services.
Humane organizations advocate for animal welfare, which includes ensuring animals are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped before placing them up for adoption. Other services include humane education, foster care programs, lost and found programs, microchip clinics, and resources for pet surrenders.
The lines between humane organizations and animal control programs blur when there is not a separate animal control agency and when cities or counties contract with humane organizations to perform animal control duties.
In these instances two somewhat different agendas are at work in the same agency: the interests of the community at large and the interests of the animal lovers supporting the nonprofit with charitable dollars.
What is the current process, and why is a humane organization important?
The City of Marshfield employs two ordinance control officers through the Marshfield Police Department to facilitate their animal control program. Ordinance control officers provide enforcement for various city ordinances, which includes animal control.
Some of their responsibilities related to animals include: regulating dog and cat licensing, handling wildlife issues, monitoring and controlling rabies outbreaks, responding to animal complaints, investigating animal abuse or neglect, and picking up animals running at large, which are considered strays.
According to state law, stray animals are to be housed for seven days to allow owners to come forward and claim their pet. Marshfield contracts with two private boarding facilities to hold strays for the required seven days. The obligation of these facilities is to provide food, water, and shelter. Strays are the city’s responsibility for these seven days.
If an animal is sick, ordinance officers take the animal to a local veterinarian. As with many municipalities, the city of Marshfield does fulfill its obligation to state laws regarding stray animals. The need for a humane organization comes into play for the countless unclaimed animals every year.
Unless an animal control program has resources available to keep unclaimed animals for an indefinite period of time in order to place them in a permanent home or has resources available to rehabilitate scared animals and funds to care for sick animals, the only choice they have is to euthanize unclaimed animals.
The Marshfield Area Pet Shelter (MAPS) was formed in September 2011 by concerned citizens after realizing the limitations of the current animal control program in Marshfield. The volunteer-based group has stepped forward to offer support and assistance to law enforcement and ordinance officers to improve the outcomes for stray animals.
Through their website and Facebook page, MAPS volunteers take photos and post descriptions of all stray animals brought in through the animal control program in hopes of generating visibility to locate owners. In addition, MAPS organizers implemented the lifesaving program Share The Care, which sponsors unclaimed animals at area humane societies until their own facility is built.
MAPS wants to elevate the level of services currently available in Marshfield to promote a more desirable outcome for the countless unclaimed animals brought in through animal control. This will ensure animals are spayed/neutered to help address the overpopulation concerns facing our community and that they are vaccinated, microchipped, and adopted instead of euthanized.
Through collaborative efforts between both our existing animal control program and the Marshfield Area Pet Shelter, stray and unclaimed animals have a brighter future. The goal to obtain an actual facility for MAPS will allow the expansion of services and provide additional support to ordinance officers, area townships, and numerous displaced animals for years to come.
To make a donation to MAPS, visit their website at www.marshfieldpetshelter.org, or mail to MAPS, P.O. Box 147, Marshfield, WI 54449, or call 715-486-5140 for more information.