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McElhaney: Leaders lost my trust on pet issue (column)

6:05 PM, May 17, 2013  |  Comments
Find a middle ground between unlimited public funding and only seven days of funding for dogs at the Humane Society of Marathon County.
Find a middle ground between unlimited public funding and only seven days of funding for dogs at the Humane Society of Marathon County.
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During the past six months the city of Wausau has been campaigning to get pet owners, the Marathon County Board and local town chairmen and -women to increase pet license fees to fund humane officers for the county.

Humane officers were going to relieve law enforcement of the 1,300-plus calls each year by picking up strays, investigating abuse and neglect cases and helping enforce the pet ordinances. When the horrible abuse allegations against a dog named Mary were reported, the ordinances to increase the license fees were dubbed "Mary's Law."

I was posting everywhere and talking to anyone who would listen, asking them to please license their pets to improve our animal community. According to City Council member Keene Winters, Wausau licensing is up 250 percent this year.

We all thought we were finally making strides in our community to to improve animal welfare.

Then, in one fell swoop, the Wausau City Council lost the good will of the pet community. The seven-day funded stay at the Humane Society of Marathon County is just too little, considering that if the city hires the new humane officers as promised, the amount of animals will increase at the shelter, especially at first. There is not enough time to evaluate, treat and adopt an animal in only seven days. We want humane officers to improve our community - for both humans and animals. We do not want someone who scoops up dogs to be euthanized in seven days, while ignoring the cat population exploding in our backyards. This doesn't even take into account how the threat of faster euthanasia may change behavior towards animals in our community. There may be a reluctance to use the shelter or, more alarming, it may encourage some people to take matters into their own hands with the feral cat in the backyard.

The Humane Society is running in the red. The county does have the responsibility and the right to have concerns to how an agency uses its funding. Contracts can include benchmarks, a reporting system and maybe some county presence on the board. There has to be some ability to sit down and go through these issues while negotiating a contract.

The recent backlash from community should be proof that the public feels there can be compromise between seven days and unlimited funding - and we consider our shelter a priority. We all realize budgets are tight, but maybe if more time is spent on collaborative solutions and less time on "official resolutions," we all would benefit.

I truly believed that we were working toward a stronger, better animal control and welfare program, one our county greatly deserves. It may take some time to win my trust back.

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