Chesterton Tribune

County looks to team with Opportunity Enterprises for animal shelter

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Porter County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, announced the non-profit group which is in talks to partner with the county to run the animal shelter is Opportunity Enterprises.

After telling the county council last week about discussions with an unnamed group, Evans revealed the identity publically at the Animal Shelter Advisory Board meeting Thursday.

Some speculated earlier that the commissioners might team with the Lakeshore PAWS group which has been assisting the county shelter in finding homes for animals.

Although Opportunity Enterprise has had no previous involvement with the shelter, Evans said he was confident the cooperative effort will yield positive results.

“If this goes through, I think there would be benefits on all sides,” said Evans.

Animal shelter board members spoke of the need for a new shelter building, but Evans said the discussions with OE are in its early stages and could not confirm if they would include plans to build a new building.

Further discussion is expected to take place between county officials and stakeholders next week. A meeting to discuss the shelter is scheduled for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the county administration building.

Evans said OE has a great desire to help the shelter and feels the partnership would benefit the individuals the organization serves. The group would help out with daily activities such as cleaning and attending to the needs of the animals.

Interim Director

Also Thursday, shelter interim director Jon Thomas introduced himself to the board. Taking charge after former director Kristina Montgomery resigned, Thomas said he has made a few changes and said landscaper Roger Getz and his crew have been cleaning up the outdoor dog runs every day this week.

Thomas said his top priorities include finding homes for the 140 cats and 55 dogs currently housed at the shelter and improving the building’s appearance to make it an inviting place for the public.

“My ultimate goal is a place for the animals. I want it spotless and I want it organized,” he said. “People do judge a book by its cover.”

Thomas, who began working at the shelter part-time two weeks ago, is also a candidate for the permanent director position.

Board member Dr. Rachel Jones suggested the shelter consult veterinarians on protocols to maintain a healthy environment for the animals which grew into a discussion of putting in concrete floors in the dog runs so the animals would not become ill from playing in dirt.

The concrete would also be easier to disinfect, said Thomas.

County Council member Laura Blaney, D-at large, who serves on the board, said portable mats might be an alternative solution.

The board and Evans talked about having a contractor get an estimate on the cost to put in concrete floors.

Sickness has been a problem recently, board members pointed out. Two outbreaks of parvovirus occurred during the past two months, resulting in the euthanization of at least three dogs.

The shelter closed down for two weeks so staff could disinfect the areas where animals are housed.

Jones said area veterinarians are becoming reluctant to care for sick animals at the shelter since they have not received funds from the county.

Blaney said the council appropriated an additional $65,000 last week to pay what is owed the veterinarians and they should receive the checks soon.

Thomas said he is also interested in purchasing a snow blower so animals can be let out to get exercise in the winter.

Marketing Plans

Board member Ella Holst provided a list of proposals from the board’s marketing committee to increase animal adoptions.

Holst suggested photos be uploaded daily to the shelter’s Facebook page or Petfinder of a cat or dog waiting to be adopted and include a individual message about the animal.

With the help of Lakeshore PAWS, “available pet” fliers will be sent out twice a month around the community.

Hoping to encourage more community involvement, the committee will reach out to schools and youth groups about participating in activities and contests such as having a contest to name a shelter dog.

It also wants to seek out a pet groomer to donate one or two days a month to come to the animal shelter. Volunteers and donors will be given special mention at least once a week online.

The committee would also like monthly promotions from community pet businesses to offer a reduced price on services for pets adopted from the shelter, such as half-off on grooming or a training class.

Blaney said the shelter could make the effort to promote the businesses that give to them.

Meanwhile, the board is in the process of setting up a new donation fund for the shelter with the Porter County Community Foundation. Residents would be able to make a tax-deductable contribution through the Foundation.



Posted 12/2/2011