Frigid Temps Fatal to Inadequately Protected Animals
Animal Shelter Builds Wall – Without a Single Furlough
By Dianne Alward-Biery
Cleaver Staff Writer
HARRISON – The frigid temperatures experienced in the county last weekend did keep prospective pet owners away from the Clare County Animal Shelter’s special Saturday Adoption Day event. It also seemed to emphasize the necessito provide clean, insulating bedding for outdoor dogs and cats, and by noon, five people had come in to pick up the free straw offered by the shelter.
“We had a very low turnout today, except for people getting straw,” said Rudi Hicks, Clare County Animal Control director. “We’re down to four bales and we’re going to keep giving it out till we don’t have any bales.”
The battle to prevent needless deaths of animals from freezing in inadequate, uninsulated shelters has been ongoing for shelter personnel. One year ago, Hicks and Animal Control Officer Bob Dodson approached the Clare County Board of Commissioners seeking an ordinance to better protect such animals. Unfortunately, as part of its by-laws, the county follows the animal law as set forth by the state, which defines adequate shelter as having “three walls and dry bedding.” Technically, that can include a metal barrel with an open end and a burlap bag on the bottom – something the most basic, obvious logic would indicate is woefully inadequate protection from sub-zero temperatures.
Hicks and Dodson then pursued action through state legislators but have not yet seen any action on that front.
“There’s another group fighting down there to get it changed, but it’s a mess,” Hicks said. She added that seeking support from the Michigan Association of Animal Control Officers has yielded very little interest.
“We were surprised too, because a lot of us are like ‘we’re dedicated and we want to fix this,’ and the others are like ‘nah, too hard to enforce.’
“All I want is a clear definition of shelter,” Hicks said. “And I want it for horses, dogs and any outside animal.”
In an effort to be proactive in staving of winter pet deaths, the shelter has been offering the free bedding straw. People just have to drop by the shelter to pick it up – staff will even carry it out to the vehicle.
Hicks said that she and Dodson had spent all day both Thursday and Friday taking calls about animals being held outside, and then going to the locations and informing people that they could not leave those animals outdoors in frigid weather.
“We try to educate them,” she said. “We’re nice, but you get to a point where you want to tell them: Come outside and sit on this step for an hour and I’ll be back and you tell me how cold you are.”
As of Saturday, shelter staff had not yet had a call about a frozen animal, but they currently are trying very hard to capture a stray German shepherd in the Leota area.
“The people at Trail’s End are feeding him,” Hicks said. “We’ve never laid eyes on him, but they say he’s a rack of bones. We’re going to set a trap that Bob and Harry [Harper] built. We called it the Acme Trap, because we told them it would never work – it works like a charm. The dog goes in, pulls on the [hanging] food and the door shuts.”
When asked how many Wile E. Coyotes had been caught in that trap, Hicks said one Great Dane, a shepherd over in Gladwin, and a hound.
Fortunately, the weather also did not stop generous residents from taking advantage of the Saturday hours to drop off donations of both money and pet food. One lady who came by to pick up straw for cats also donated a roll of dimes to the shelter’s efforts. Another donor dropping off dog and cat food was Bob Briggs, who said the Saturday hours made it possible for him to make it in to the shelter.
Briggs is well-known at the shelter as the man who, in the past, had provided a Horsey Retirement Home for all the old horses which had been abandoned to the shelter.
Hicks was happy to show off the “something new” at the shelter: the sound abatement wall installed to quell some of the riotous barking that echoed through the building. It was not only disturbing to the shelter staff and visitors, but also caused problems for other shelter residents.
“We built a wall and we did not have to shut down the government,” Hicks said. “And we didn’t declare a national emergency.”
Hicks said the wall quieted down the whole shelter, substantially cutting the stress suffered by cats and puppies. As she spoke, the current canine residents were busy yapping as though there would never be another chance to sing their song.
“Right now, we have the loudest dogs on earth,” Hicks said. “It is amazing how different it is, especially for the kitties and the puppies.”
The Clare County Animal Shelter is located off Cranberry Lake Road, about a half-mile west of the intersection of Cranberry and Business Route 127.