Animal Control seeks replacements for lost inmate help

By: Thomas Franz | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published February 18, 2016

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MOUNT CLEMENS — For more than 20 years, low-risk inmates at the Macomb County Jail have helped staff the county’s Animal Control Division by cleaning kennels.

The inmates were part of the county’s trustee program, which allowed for two inmates to be transferred to the shelter for about eight hours a day, seven days a week.

In the first week of January this year, the trustee program was suspended after a sweep of the prison found contraband that was concerning to Sheriff Anthony Wickersham.

With the trustee program no longer in place, Animal Control officials are now seeking to hire three full-time employees to maintain care of animals.

Including the duties that formerly went to the inmates, Chief Animal Control Officer Jeff Randazzo said following a Feb. 4 county Board of Commissioners meeting, the new hires would also have veterinary assistant responsibilities.

“Now if we get these three people, we could really open it up to do a lot of amazing things, like vaccine clinics and microchipping,” Randazzo said. “We can do even more medical treatments on animals.”

By hiring more skilled employees, the Animal Control Division could also generate more revenue by performing those medical procedures. It currently charges $25 for a microchip procedure.

There is also a possibility that the city of Sterling Heights would return to using Animal Control’s services if more staff is added. Animal Control would receive $30,000 annually if that were to happen.

Randazzo estimated the cost to hire the new full-time kennel attendants to be $210,498.

Previously, the inmates provided about 40 percent of the total kennel attendant staffing. An informational packet provided to the board from Randazzo showed that to make up for the lost staffing, Randazzo has had to pull officers off of daily patrol so they can instead fill gaps in cleaning and feeding requirements for the animals.

Randazzo has also had to require overtime from staff, and if that practice continues at its current pace, overtime expenses would cost nearly $92,000 annually.

Chief Deputy County Executive Mark Deldin spoke at the Feb. 4 meeting to express the county executive’s support for Animal Control’s funding request.

Deldin provided several statistics that showed the increased effectiveness in the county’s Animal Control Division recently.

Deldin said the county’s save rate for animals has increased from 26 percent in 2011 to 91 percent in 2015. The department was recently recognized by the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance with an innovation and best practices award.

“In the last three years, the Macomb County Animal Control Department has become a leader and model in the state, and it is our intent to remain at the top,” Deldin said.

Wickersham said the trustees involved in the kennel program were two of four inmates who had virtually no supervision by deputies. There are approximately 30 trustees total who help clean the jail’s kitchens and perform other supervised work. The suspension of the program will not affect a work program to clean up roadways, the jail kitchen cleanup or other supervised activities,Wickersham added.

“The whole purpose of me suspending it and not letting the trustees go out anymore unsupervised is the fact that we’ve seen an increase of contraband either attempted to be smuggled into the facility or found inside the facility,” Wickersham said.  “We looked at some of the ways in which contraband could be coming in, and we’re trying to reduce that.”

A decision on the additional hires was tabled until March 9. The item is expected to be on the agenda for a Health and Human Services Committee meeting that day.

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