May 27, 2015 Edition

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WR animal shelter has
potential to serve county

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council approved the purchase of the former Gateway Animal Clinic at its May meeting.

The building will be used initially as an animal control holding facility for Walnut Ridge, but Mayor Charles Snapp said it has the potential to be much more than that.

"Mayors Lanny Tinker, Bonnie Ragsdale and Opal Mullen have all talked to me about problems their towns have with dogs and all have expressed some interest in an Animal Control Shelter or possibly a Humane Society," Snapp said.

However, a full shelter will bring major expenses and, until a plan is developed to keep costs to taxpayers low, the building will only be used for animal control under the five-day holding requirements before unclaimed animals will be euthanized.

"I'm concerned about spending taxpayer dollars on an animal shelter and animal control. I feel strongly that the cost burden should be paid by registration fees and/or fines, coming from the pet owners, not the city as a whole," Snapp said.

Those assisting in developing plans for the shelter will be Aldermen Wendell Jones, head of animal control ordinance group, Allen Smith, chair of the building and land committee, and Anthony Pinkston, chair of the budget committee.

There are several options the city has with the purchase of this building.

Snapp said the best set up might include an animal control portion in the back section of the building while a recognized shelter is at the front.

"If a recognized shelter wanted to work with Walnut Ridge, they would likely be responsible for all utilities and building maintenance, instead of renting part of the building," Snapp said.

Another option would be a collaborative effort between the county and cities interested in working with Walnut Ridge for animal control and shelter needs. The expenses would be shared between the different communities utilizing the facility.

"Community service workers and volunteers could run the shelter part and help with the animal control side," Snapp said.

With the facility and an abundance of volunteer help and support, Snapp said local veterinarians have indicated they would be willing to hold a discounted rabies clinic in the facility.

The city is working on a total animal regulation ordinance that would rework all current city laws. Snapp said the committee is not currently planning on a breed specific ban, but a viscous dog portion will be in the new ordinance.

There will also be several fee and fine adjustments discussed to help offset the budget for expenses incurred by the animal control facility.

Snapp said he recommended a first-time registration fee for all dogs and cats, with a follow up annual fee, and increased fines for second, third and fourth-time offenses of a dog getting loose.

Fines will also be enforced for violators of annual rabies vaccination and display of tags. Cats have special regulations, many of which differ from dogs, that will also be enforced.

Snapp remains optimistic about the city's investment.

"Something will work out and if it doesn't, Walnut Ridge has a facility to use for animal control."

In that scenario, Snapp said a legal 501 c3 recognized animal shelter could accept animals from the facility by providing a copy of their legal status. A recognized shelter can bypass all the associated costs of adoption.

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