County looking to ease cat & dog woes
The Morgan County Commission is considering some new approaches to the problem of abandoned and stray cats and dogs and feral cats in the county.
At their Thursday, November 15 meeting, County Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson said that she felt the best plan would be combining Animal Control and Humane Society of Morgan County functions.
She didn't believe that either the Humane Society shelter or the Animal Control shelter were large enough to deal with the animal problems on their own.
Hutchinson also suggested putting in a sterile room where onsite spaying and neutering could be done before the animals were adopted out. Area veterinarians could be asked to donate a half-day each month to do neutering and spaying, she said.
With the Humane Society's current spaying and neutering assistance programs, animals were released to adopters with a discount voucher to be put toward the animal's spaying or neutering at an area veterinarian. Follow-up calls were made to check that the procedure had been done, she said.
The Humane Society's Trap/Neuter/Release program for feral cats needed more volunteers to trap cats, Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson thought the county had an obligation morally to do something about the stray and abandoned cat problem. Stotler felt the only way to justify spending county money on this issue would be a scenario like Morgan County Health Department declaring the cat overpopulation situation a health hazard.
The commission discussed possibly asking residents if they wanted to make voluntary donations to the Humane Society's spay/neuter program or to their Trap/Neuter/Release program when they came in to purchase their dog tags.
Commission President Glen Stotler said that state code gave them little authority to deal with cats. Hutchinson said the owners could be fined if cats weren't vaccinated. The problem was getting anyone to claim that the cats belong to them, she said.
Hutchinson had talked with Senator John Unger about introducing legislation to expand the state code to include cats under animal control. Resident Theresa DiRodio had also sent out packets with her petition about the stray cat issue and had her support, she said.
Hutchinson said she had encouraged Ed Duncan, President of the Human Society Board of Directors, to present a proposal before the commission's next budget session.
"I'm hoping to find some middle ground," Hutchinson said.
The Morgan County Commission recently considered a section of West Virginia Code that could allow an animal control officer to pick up domestic stray cats.
The commissioners agreed at their October 19 meeting to ask Prosecutor Debra McLaughlin to look at the wording in State Code 7-10-4 which deals with the care and custody of animals abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated and determine whether it is applicable to abandoned cats.
DiRodio had wondered if stray cats found on her property could be considered as abandoned under the code. She is presently caring for 34 cats, most of which had wandered onto her property or had been found abandoned.
McLaughlin's interpretation of the section of state code was that it applied to neglected animals and would not apply to abandoned animals, as in DiRodio's case, Hutchinson said on Monday.
Cats run at large and are not tagged, she said. It's easy for people to deny that it's their cat, Hutchinson said. She said she hears more complaints about stray cats than anything else. Hutchinson believes it's a major problem.
The Animal Control budget covers the officer's salary, expenses and supplies and has very little money, she said. It's a big job taking care of the kennel on top of running animal calls, Hutchinson said. Hutchinson was working to establish a volunteer base that could help with some of the responsibilities at the animal pound.
She was also looking into whether community service workers could be arranged through the probation office a couple of days a week to help with cleaning the kennels and other jobs.
The commission also approved the purchase of 3,800 new heart-shaped dog tags for $775.75. The price includes shipping and individually packaged tag and hooks.
This year the county issued 3,500 dog tags, which is about the county yearly average for tags, said Morgan County Assessor John Allen Swaim. That number included 62 dogs in the Town of Bath and 56 dogs in the Town of Paw Paw, he said.
The county took in a total of $10,935 in dog fees last year. Dog fees in each Morgan County municipality are $6 per dog. Fees are $3 per dog for the rest of the county. A portion of the money goes to the assessor and the rest is placed in the general fund to fund the dog warden and the leash law operation, Swaim said. The fees are set by West Virginia code, Stotler said.
The county paid resident Amos Pearrell $97 from the dog fees for an attack in which two large dogs killed his two pygmy goats. Animal control officer Linda Klein investigated the incident and determined that the attack was done by dogs.
In several other reported dog attacks over the past few years, the residents hadn't paid taxes on animals they had lost, Swaim said.