More people hanging onto their pets

QUICKREAD

By the numbers

Mesa County Animal Services

2009

• Barking dogs: 276

• Dogs at large: 5,186

• Welfare checks, neglect: 1,062

• Aggressive dogs: 514

• Animals in jeopardy, injured: 499

2008

• Barking dogs: 345

• Dogs at large: 4,197

• Welfare checks, neglect: 817

• Aggressive dogs: 534

• Animals in jeopardy, injured: 600

For the full 2009 Mesa County Animal Control Services report, go to http://www.mesacounty.us/mcweb/animalcontrol/



Mesa County Animal Services officials braced for the worst last year as the effects of a national recession rolled across the Grand Valley. Worried that history would repeat itself, animal welfare agencies assumed animal owners would again abandon their pets as they had in the 1980s. During those bleak economic times, shelter workers would arrive each day to find a new batch of pets left at their doorstep, often tied to the front fence.

But that largely didn’t happen in 2009 in Mesa County and animal officials believe it’s because people’s ideas about their pets are changing.

“People are understanding that their animal is part of their family,” said Penny McCarty, director of animal services.

According to its 2009 report released Monday, fewer people relinquished their pets to the county’s shelter in 2009 than in 2008, a decrease of 14 percent. Overall the shelter took in 8 percent fewer pets in 2009 than it had the previous year.

Other highlights of the report show a major decline in the euthanasia rate of pets at the shelter.

In 1987, the euthanasia rate for pets in Mesa County through the shelter was 84 percent. It’s less than half of that today, at 41 percent. And, more telling, McCarty said the vast majority of animals euthanized are either too sick, injured or dangerous to be able to be rehabilitated for adoption. Five healthy dogs and 42 healthy cats were euthanized in 2009, the agency reports. Thanks to the help of organizations including the Cats League and Assistance of the Western Slope, or CLAWS, and the Grand River Humane Society, the shelter saved 3,031 animals in 2009.

Animal Services will soon move into a new facility at 971 Coffman Road in Whitewater.

McCarty said the shelter is waiting on asphalt for the new parking lot, which has been delayed because of cold, wet weather.

The 7,500-square-foot facility was built with the health of dogs, staff and the public in mind. Every room is designed to prevent bacteria from growing on surfaces. Kennels are designed so dogs will no long face each other, which will reduce their stress and barking and should increase public safety. Separate kennel rooms were built both for dangerous dogs and for dogs that must be quarantined for medical reasons. A conference room will be available for pet ownership classes and for animal assessment during nonbusiness hours.

Animal services officials hope two other county-owned plots on the Coffman Road site will be the future homes of other animal welfare organizations.


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