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County animal control making progress & dispelling rumors

By Judith Pannebaker

Jennifer Gaertner, community liaison on animal control issues, recently offered Bandera County Commissioners a status report of the county’s lost and found four-legged critters. In an interview, she also eagerly dispelled still-swirling rumors.

From Dec. 1, 2008, through Tuesday, Jan. 6, animal control officers with the sheriff’s office picked up 32 dogs and 18 puppies. According to Gaertner, 14 dogs were returned to their owners and 17 dogs and 16 puppies were placed with various animal rescue organizations.

Stop dumping dogs

Precinct 3 Commissioner Richard Keese spoke candidly about the mama dogs and their young pups found along Wharton’s Dock Road over the Christmas holidays.

“If we find out who did that, those people will be prosecuted. There’s no reason to dump dogs - especially puppies - on the side of the road,” he said, adding, “That was just ridiculous. I hope somebody reads about this and comes forward with information.”

Dumping animals can result in charges of animal abuse and abandonment, a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable up to a maximum of one year in prison and up to a $4,000 fine.
According to Gaertner, in December, one dog was euthanized on the advice of a local veterinarian. The dog was ill prior to being impounded. However, an outcome appeared brighter for a second sick dog.

“Another dog also came in with medical problems,” Gaertner said. “She was an older spaniel mix with a tumor the size of a grapefruit on her side. I placed her with a rescue group that gave her the medical treatment she needed - at no charge to the county.”

Just lookin’ for a home

In an interview on Monday, Jan. 5, Gaertner reported that five dogs and two puppies remained at the animal control facility on Highway 16 North, but she anticipated placing them with a rescue organization shortly.
To facilitate finding homes for the c
ounty’s impounded dogs, Gaertner met recently with Ron Aaron, executive director of San Antonio’s Animal Defense League. “Ron agreed to keep spaces open for Bandera County animals every other week,” she said, describing the ADL rescue facility on Nacogdoches Road as “impressive.”

Gaertner’s plans for county animal control are equally as impressive.

“In the near future, I hope to offer adoptions straight from our animal facility,” she revealed. “To help with this, I’m meeting with staff from Boerne’s Hill Country Animal League to discuss low-cost spay-neuter and immunizations for dogs adopted from the Bandera County Animal Facility.”

Lassie, come home

In addition, she said finding lost and strayed pets has become easier. Emergency dispatchers now use a new form that helps unite lost animals with their owners. Information garnered includes a brief description of the animal; name, telephone number and address of the owner; and the date the animal was lost. Gaertner receives the forms each day. “With this information, four dogs without tags or microchips have been returned to their owners,” she said.

Plans are also moving along for a county-sponsored micro-chipping program. “I am setting up a meeting so Marti Tilton of Home Again Microchips can teach me and Senior Animal Control Officer Rick Neely how to microchip properly,” Gaertner said, adding, “This meeting will be open to anyone in the sheriff’s department who would also like to learn the proper technique.”

Dispelling rumors

During the Monday sit-down, Gaertner also took an opportunity to dispel rumors that continue to swirl around Bandera County’s animal control policies - especially since its separation from the Cowboy Capital Pet Assistance League.

“CCPAL is still an operating animal rescue in Bandera County,” she said. “However, the group is no longer associated with the county.” Until CCPAL and commissioners came to a parting of the ways last November, the animal rescue group had operated the animal control facility.

“The other rumor I would like to put to rest is that the county is only holding animals for three days before euthanizing them,” Gaertner noted. “That is simply untrue.”

In a fundraising plea sent out in November, CCPAL President Marlene Heavner wrote: “The county plans to resume euthanizing the stray dogs and cats. This will mean the extermination of hundreds of healthy, adoptable animals.”

In her Nov. 12 newspaper column, Mary Butler asked: “Will the public know how many animals are gassed each week?” and “… as things stand at the moment, you, the taxpayer, will be paying for the unnecessary killing of hundreds of healthy, adoptable animals each year. Is that what you want?”

According to Gaertner, misinformation not only inflames the public but also fails to solve the problem of stray and unwanted animals. “Because of what they’ve heard and read, people are reluctant to ask for the county’s help with strays because they fear the animal will be put down immediately,” she said. “This is not the case. We are not automatically euthanizing animals after a holding period. As of this time, local veterinarians have only had to humanely euthanize three cats and three dogs for medical reasons. On the other hand, we have placed 23 dogs with rescue organizations and returned 23 others to their owners.”

Finding lost pets

Offering information on retrieving lost pets, Gaertner continued, “If you have lost your pet or have found a stray animal, call the Bandera County Sheriff’s Department at 830-796-3771 and give the emergency dispatcher a brief description of the animal. Dispatch will make a note on their daily log and then send a deputy to pick up the stray animal. The dispatch log is faxed to me daily so I can check it against animals currently at our facility.”

Stray animals or lost pets are transported to the Bandera County Animal Control Facility, located on Highway 16 North between the Bandera Electric Cooperative and Mansfield Park. After being scanned for a microchip, the animal’s picture is taken and an information form filled out with as many details as possible.
“After I receive the information, every effort is made to locate the owner from information on tags and chips to looking through dispatch logs to determine if the animal matches any descriptions for lost pets,” Gaertner explained. “If an owner cannot be found, the animal’s information and picture is emailed to a minimum of 10 rescue organizations across Texas.”

She added that animals with tags and collars are held for five business days and animals without owner information are held for three business days before being released to a rescue organization.

Gaertner urged county residents with questions about the current animal control policy to call her at 830-796-4075 or 830-460-8143. “We want to impress upon residents that the county is taking care of stray and abandoned animals in a professional and compassionate manner.”