Vail Daily column: What’s up at Animal Services? | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: What’s up at Animal Services?

Stephen Sheldon
Valley Voices

Since the Eagle County Animal Services Advisory Committee was established, in part, to act as a community liaison between county residents and Animal Services, I thought it would be a good idea to write a bi-monthly column following each meeting to provide an update.

The committee met last Jan. 19, and discussed: community feedback; shelter operation updates; euthanasia protocols and guidelines; shelter staffing; pet licensing; public service announcements; the Animal Services event schedule for 2017; and capital improvements for the shelter. It was a busy three-hour meeting.

We continue to receive community feedback and are working on our outreach efforts. We will have a presence on the Eagle County website under the animal services header and, of course, use Facebook for messaging. Tracy LeClair offered to be the media liaison for the committee. You will soon be able to reach committee members via email; Kris Friel from the county will facilitate.

Among our goals are to facilitate public services announcements between the shelter, the animal services committee and the media. We would like to be able to get the word out quickly for emerging animal- and pet-related issues. For example, a few weeks ago, we needed to alert the public about mountain lion sightings in commonly used pet (and people) areas throughout the valley.

Shelter-wise, it was a somewhat slow month, with 14 adoptions and nine pets returned to owners. One of the biggest functions in Animal Services is calls for service, of which there were 68 in November (53 of those being for control).

The biggest agenda item of the night was costs of services, who pays for what, mainly through intergovernmental agreements. Intergovernmental agreements are any made between two or more governments — in this case, the county, towns and metropolitan districts — to solve problems of mutual concern. Most of Animal Service is funded by the county; intergovernmental agreements fill the gap.

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The elephant in the room is that municipalities in Eagle County do not pay proportionally to the services they receive. For example, almost 50 percent of the calls for service are from Eagle and Gypsum, yet those two towns pay much less percentage-wise than other towns. Another enforcement officer is desperately needed downvalley but funds are currently unavailable. The committee hopes to work on correcting the lack of standardization in intergovernmental agreements and, in the process, find the funds necessary for an additional officer and other resources.

Coming February, Pet Data will take over the licensing procedure for Eagle County pets. This will generate additional revenue and free up staffing. Currently, 1,500 to 2,000 dogs and cats get their required licenses — this is around a 25 percent compliance rate. Besides providing a revenue stream, pet licensing has significant public health concerns. Switching to Pet Data is a win-win; we look forward to modernizing our licensing procedure, making it easier for the public to purchase licenses and increasing compliance for licensing.

If you were not already aware, then we are very proud the Eagle County Animal Shelter is a no-kill shelter. This means pets up for adoption are not sitting on "death row" while waiting to be adopted. There is not a clear-cut protocol for how long animals are kept; it is a case-by-case determination decided by the staff. This approach seems to work well; sometimes being a small-town entity has these advantages!

Eagle County Animal Services is visible in the community and has a lot planned for 2017. In May, we will hold an adopt-a-thon in conjunction with the Glenwood Springs animal services. In June, Animal Services will have a booth and presence at the GoPro games in Vail. As in past years, Animal Services will have a booth at the Thursday night concerts in Eagle and will host a few summer events in Eagle Ranch. The committee is discussing a presence at Eagle County Fair and Rodeo as well as Gypsum Daze. The deciding factor for the events is, you guessed it, volunteers.

The last item up for discussion was capital improvements. There is $40,000 available for improvements. The most pressing needs are re-doing the outdoor fencing and runs with the possibility of adding a dog park. Securing the fenced area for adoptees is the highest priority. Bigger-ticket items such as an after-hours animal drop-off for police department use will save a lot of man and woman hours for Animal Services but must wait for now. Perhaps a donor will come forward who would like their name on this addition!

Our next meeting is March 8 at 5:30 p.m. See you there.

Stephen Sheldon, DVM, is chair of the Eagle County Animal Services Advisory Committee, a nine-member committee established by the Eagle County commissioners. The Eagle County Animal Services Advisory Committee reviews operational procedures at the shelter, provides feedback to the commissioners and engages and informs the community regarding Animal Service-related issues. He can be reached at drsteve@gypsumah.com