The number of stray and unwanted animals in Bay County is skyrocketing, and animal lovers are looking for answers to the problem.
When the county commission met last week, Commissioner Guy Tunnell raised the possibility of offering a surplus county building for use as a low cost spay and neuter clinic. "This is not the sure fire answer to the overpopulation problem [but] I think it's one tool in that effort," Tunnell said.
Despite the efforts of the county's Animal Control Division, the number of stray and unwanted animals is growing out of control. Bill Olasin, Animal Control Manager, said the shelter took in nearly 10,000 animals last year and had to destroy more than 6,000 that couldn't be adopted out to new homes.
"The things that we see everyday that come into the front door or that we have to bring in through the back door… it's gut wrenching," he said.
Currently, there are more than two hundred dogs and cats at the shelter waiting to be adopted. Some are strays; many are simply unwanted.
"We've got to stop the indiscriminate breeding," said Olasin. "We have to stop the mama dog that gets pregnant, has a litter, and the people can't take care of the litter so they bring it in to Animal Control and say 'here, it's yours'… we have to stop that."
The Animal Control Advisory Committee – a group of citizens appointed by the county commission – supports a low cost spay and neuter clinic. The county's former Information Technology building, located on 6th Street near the intersection with Mulberry Avenue, has been suggested as a possible location.
"It's not ready to be opened up tomorrow without some significant renovation," said Bob Majka, Assistant County Manager. "That will be part of the assessment process we go through... what has to be done to any of these facilities we may look at, what will the cost associated with that be."
County officials have begun developing budgets for the next fiscal year, and Majka said it remains to be seen whether funding a spay neuter program is a priority. He said it depends on what the advisory committee's recommends and to what extent commissioners want to support the project. "If we're simply requested to provide a facility for them to operate from, that certainly is very advantageous from the perspective of us not having to fund a program from county revenues," said Majka.
Another option under discussion is a mobile clinic. "Other communities have chosen to do this where they can move the services around and potentially go into the areas where perhaps the largest amount of stray or abandoned animals are coming from," said Majka.
According to Olasin, studies have shown that low cost spay and neuter clinics can reduce animal populations, but solving the problem is contingent on owners taking responsibility for their animals. "The behavior of pet owners is the critical issue," he said.
The Animal Control Advisory Committee meet on Wednesday, June 13, to discuss its final recommendations. The meeting is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the Bay County Government Center.