Roseville signs on with animal control agreement amid public concerns

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 5, 2014

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ROSEVILLE — The Roseville City Council signed on to a six-month animal control contract with the Animal Care Hospital of Sterling Heights Feb. 25 in a bid to save money following increases in cost with the Macomb County Animal Shelter.

Strong emotions were on display by residents and other people in the audience, who did not believe the animal hospital has the experience and ability to do the job as well as the county’s animal shelter. In spite of their input during the public hearing, the council’s vote was unanimous in favor of the contract.

Roseville currently is a member of a consortium of several cities — including Warren, Eastpointe, and Sterling Heights — that worked together to find alternatives to the Macomb County Animal Shelter, Police Chief James Berlin said.

Berlin said talk of moving away from the animal shelter started last year when the county informed the city that the county would be raising costs at the animal shelter’s programs to cities by “200 percent, in some cases.”

“When talks were held on the costs being exorbitant, we were told that if we don’t like it, to go elsewhere, so we went out to see what we could find out in the private sector,” Berlin said. “We were able to find the Sterling Heights animal hospital, which offered the same services as the county at a reduced cost.”

Berlin said that not only are services overall less expensive at the hospital, but it is closer to Roseville, saving animal control officers on gas.

Berlin said animals with identification would still be returned to the owners, if possible, as a first resort, and may simply just be held at the police station overnight if they cannot make contact. Once contact has been made, the animals would be held at the (animal hospital’s) shelter for five days for pickup before they would be considered “abandoned” and adoption efforts begin.

“So our dog catcher will do everything possible to locate the owner of an animal before sending that animal to the shelter,” Councilwoman Catherine Haugh said.

Berlin confirmed that longstanding policy, and said he is interested in getting a microchipping ordinance in place in Roseville, so pet owners would have to get the identification chips on their animals to help make it easier to find their homes.

Aside from passing the animals along to adoption agencies, Berlin said the hospital would also be able to update its Facebook with newly received animals, and he plans on having a link added to the city’s website about found animals. The book of animals in custody will still be available at the front desk of the police station, Berlin added.

The animal hospital will also be able to provide health and disease checks, as well as vaccinations on the spot, Berlin said, and the staff would be able to take the animals outside to exercise a couple of times a day.

If the city or the hospital are not happy with the arrangement, either party can back out at any time, and Berlin said the contract only runs for six months as a pilot program. City personnel also can inspect the hospital’s shelter at any time.

Audience members were not so enthusiastic with the contract, however. Amber Sitko voiced her support of a “trap, neuter and release” program, or TNR, for dealing with feral cats. Macomb County operates such a program, where stray cats, when picked up, are sterilized and returned to their place of origin.

“Lots of communities use it,” she said. “St. Clair Shores is doing a pilot program, and Warren is considering it.”

Sitko said adopting animals out is harder than it sounds, noting that the private animal hospital lacks a Petfinder account and has limited experience. She also warned that while microchips are a great idea, they can deactivate, fall out or simply not get updated.

“The private vet just doesn’t have the experience,” Sitko said. “They just have so much more experience at the shelter.”

Christine Divito, who volunteers with the Macomb animal shelter, said she does not think the veterinary hospital has the experience necessary to care for the animals. She said she has been able to help connect the animals at the county shelter in Mount Clemens with other rescue organizations, as well as get animals on Petfinder and other major websites.

An animal hospital representative authorized to speak could not be reached before press time.

Additionally, Divito said the shelter still offers free health services for animals and has kids from juvenile detention centers come in to train the animals, making them more adoptable.

Mayor John Chirkun said that while the Macomb County Animal Shelter may have some free programs, taken on the whole, the new contract saves the city money.

He said that while he appreciated the input, the city is hurting financially from the drop in property values, as is Macomb County. As a result, the city is doing what it does with other services — shopping around to try and save money. He also expressed wariness of a TNR program in Roseville.

“We’re not trying to harm anybody or any pet unduly, but it is a quality-of-life issue, a budget issue, and health and safety issue for people in Roseville,” Chirkun said. “The chief did his homework on this, and if things change in the future, we will change our plans in the future.”

Chirkun added that because the contract involved multiple cities, it would also qualify for Gov. Rick Snyder’s revenue-sharing program guidelines, which demand shared services by multiple entities.

The Animal Care Hospital’s Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/animalcaresterling.

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