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Catching up with Bureau County Animal Control

Department modernizes software, analyzes fee fairness, reviews ordinances; rabies vaccines, humane care, unclaimed strays are big issues

Scott Robbins
Scott Robbins

PRINCETON — Bureau County Animal Control is working on a few projects to become a more efficiently run department within the county.

Right now, the office is switching over to a more modern computer software system that will keep better track of pet owners to ensure their pets are registered with the county and up-to-date on rabies vaccinations.

The best part about the system is that the county was already utilizing it in the Emergency Management Agency’s office.

According to Animal Control Officer Scott Robbins, it had all the capabilities needed for Animal Control; it was just a matter of figuring out a new way to use it to fit the needs for his office.

“Financially, it didn’t put the county down a lot of money, and it seems to have all the things we need to do right to be more efficient and visual with what’s going on,” he said.

The department is also taking part in a county-wide cost study and will be comparing itself to other area animal control offices outside the county to see if it’s being fair on fees, penalties and the cost of tags.

Robbins and the Animal Control Committee will also be sitting down and reviewing the county’s animal control ordinances. He said since his time in the department, which has been 10 years, the county has not updated any of its ordinances related to animal control.

“We’re going to clean them up and see if anything needs to be added or taken out,” he said.

“We’re going to be looking to see what is outdated and what needs to be worded better or what ordinances need to be added to address issues we’re dealing with today that we didn’t have before.”

Robbins said County Administrator Sharon Schallhorn has been instrumental in pointing out the need for Animal Control to be more efficient, and has gotten the ball rolling on these projects. And in good timing, too, he added. Animal Control is dealing with more problems than ever today.

“Even in my 10 years, we’re seeing a bigger number in issues with dogs and pets,” Robbins said.

The issues can range from all over, but the three that are the most prevalent are:

1) Educating the public about the need for rabies vaccines;

2) Dealing with individuals who lack knowledge about the humane upkeep of pets; and

3) Caring for stray dogs not claimed.

Keeping up on rabies vaccines

Robbins said the most common issue he deals with is ensuring pet owners are complying with the rabies vaccination state law and county ordinance, which states that “every dog upon turning four months of age is to receive a rabies vaccine and be registered with the county which it resides.”

“A lot of offenders will say they didn’t know. Everyone gets one pass, but the law states you have to have a rabies vaccine. My number one priority is getting everyone educated about that,” he said.

While there hasn’t been a rabies outbreak in the county for some time, in the past few years several bats found tested positive. Robbins said that case proves why it’s so important to make sure all pets are up to date on their vaccines, and pointed out how easy it would be for an outbreak to occur if Animal Control didn’t regulate the matter.

And while the law doesn’t state anything about keeping cats vaccinated, more owners are opting to do so, because they’re known to spend time outside and hunt more than dogs, according to Robbins.

Caring for neglected pets

It’s never an easy situation to go into a home where a pet has not been taken care of properly by its owner.

Robbins said he sees too many of these case, and many times it’s the owner who lacks knowledge about the humane upkeep of their pets. This includes pets being left outside during extreme temperatures, owners not providing adequate food or water, and pets not given proper shelter if outside at all times.

In some cases, these animals have to be taken from their owners, which is never an easy situation.

“People neglect to do the right thing for their animal,” Robbins said.

“People just don’t get it. And it’s very frustrating on my behalf to try and explain to them and get them to understand and do it right.”

Taking in stray dogs

Robbins said there are many dogs who come to the kennels that look well kept, freshly groomed, fed, no signs of abuse, and yet no one comes to claim them.

On occasions when they are claimed, it could be anywhere from four to six days after they’ve been captured and taken into the shelter. Just this year, the shelter took in 13 dogs and only three were claimed.

There is still no clear explanation of why it happens, but unfortunately Animal Control is left dealing with animals not claimed.

“We’re very blessed and fortunate that we have shelters and rescues in the extended area that will help us out so we’re not having to do the alternative that everyone fears,” he said.

In the future, Robbins hopes that passwords to the new computer system can be given out to villages around the county and the sheriff’s department, so that if a stray dog with a tag is found, someone with authority can type it into the system and look up the owner.

This would provide a more efficient and faster way of getting the pet back home, rather than waiting on one person with access to the system to be available to do so.

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