By Kristin Bien (firstname.lastname@example.org)
8:23 AM EDT, October 18, 2012
South Bend euthanized more than 60 percent of the animals it took in last year. A South Bend Common Council member has a plan to drastically lower that number, and she says it wouldn’t cost taxpayer dollars.
In 2011, South Bend Animal Care and Control took in 3,820 animals, with 2,456 getting euthanized. While city leaders say the numbers this year are down because the new Animal Care and Control building has allowed for more room to hold animals, Valerie Schey says that is not good enough.
Schey is the 3rd District councilwoman for South Bend's Common Council. She is also president of CARE, a non-profit that helps support South Bend Animal Care and Control through fundraising and volunteer resources. Schey is leading the way as the city tries a new rescue outreach program, but it is only part of Schey's big plan.
"I think we can get there, but it is not going to happen overnight," says Schey.
Schey wants to create a "Mayor's Alliance" between animal welfare organizations in the area. The Mayor's Alliance of New York City is a program that is privately funded (no taxpayer dollars) through grants and donations that has drastically reduced the euthanasia rate there. Schey would like to use that program as a model for South Bend.
The alliance would act as an umbrella over accepted and accredited animal welfare organizations in the area. It would help them with fundraising and resources and act as a liaison in helping get animals out of the shelters and into homes and rescues.
The ultimate mission: "To work towards a day when no animal of reasonable health or temperament would be euthanized because he or she doesn't have a home," says Schey.
Schey has already started leading the way in South Bend by helping pilot a rescue outreach program which finds an alternative rescue, shelter or home for animals that come into the animal control shelter. But Schey says her long-term plan includes changing laws and ordinances within the city.
Schey would like to see chapter 5 in South Bend's city code rewritten – allowing responsible pet owners to have more than three animals. She would also like to see ordinance changed to champion responsible cat colony caretakers.
"There are individuals in the animal welfare world that are referred to as colony caretakers," explains Schey, "they are people that care for these cats in a very responsible manner through trapping the cats, having them neutered and spayed, vaccinating these cats and returning them to their colony. Currently doing that is illegal within the city of South Bend."
"There are people out there who have done a tremendous job of handling their [cat] colonies, but there are people who don't like cats at all," says Catherine Toppel, the city's code enforcement director.
Toppel says the city is open to this alliance, especially if it means lowering the euthanasia rate. But Toppel says the city still has a liability when it comes to the animals.
And she says taxpayers are paying for the ACC services, so as long as it is a small turnaround, the animals should stay in the shelter and wait for adoption. That costs $75 an animal – money that goes back to the city.
"We are Animal Care and Control," says Toppel, "There is a need for control inside an urban environment such as South Bend – smaller lots, a lot of homes, potential for a lot more animals than you would have in the county. However that is our goal – 100 percent adoption of our animals."
Schey's long-term goal and probably the most controversial is to address breed-specific legislation. Schey would like to do temperament tests to determine an animal's adoptability rather than condemning an animal just because it is considered a vicious breed.
"I do feel strongly that stereotyping of any kind isn't fair, and that goes for animals too," says Schey.
And while Schey is adamant her goals can be implemented in South Bend, she knows there will be exceptions.
"We are working towards a day when no animal of reasonable health or temperament is euthanized," says Schey. "There are going to be situations where we are going to have to euthanize animals. There are cases where a dog may come in with Parvo. Parvo costs $1,000 or more to treat. We don't have those resources. That animal will need to be euthanized."
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