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For the week of Mar. 22 through Mar. 28, 2000

Shelter manager: Hailey mayor has been barking up wrong tree

Animal shelter officials reach tentative pact with Hailey

"The mayor misunderstood the shelter’s policy and is 'very comfortable' with the tentative agreement."

- Timothy Gardiner, Animal shelter’s board president

Express Staff Writer

meowLonely, depressed? We’ll never know how this cat feels. But she (or he) almost certainly wants to be adopted. Shelter officials say that, currently, there’s no overcrowding at the facility, but that its cat and dog population is at capacity. (Express Photos by David N. Seelig)

Daphne McCann, the new manager of the Wood River Valley’s animal shelter, makes her points clearly:

  • The shelter—formally known as the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley is at capacity but isn’t overcrowded. Currently, the shelter, a couple of miles west of Hailey in Croy Canyon, houses approximately 40 dogs, 25 puppies and 30 cats.

  • No one at the shelter wants to back off its "no kill" policy, invoked last year.

  • Shelter officials would like to renegotiate a pact with the county and its cities to reflect a policy that—unlike many shelters throughout the state and the nation—doesn’t destroy animals not quickly adopted. This policy attracted statewide media attention last year.

Daphne McCann

Daphne McCann


Timothy Gardiner, president of the shelter’s board, said in a telephone interview yesterday that a tentative agreement has been reached with the city of Hailey to endorse the shelter’s no-kill policy.

Got room for me?

Got room for me? That’s what these dogs at the Animal Shelter of Wood River Valley would like to know. Shelter officials are confident that its no-kill policy has been working since it was invoked last year. (Express Photo by David N. Seelig)

McCann, 25, who was in pre-veterinary medicine at the University of Washington for two years, underscored in an interview that her philosophy appears to be at odds with Hailey Mayor Brad Siemer. The mayor apparently opposes the no-kill policy.

At a recent Hailey City Council meeting, Siemer suggested he sees the shelter as an overcrowded facility and that his perception of the problem is rooted in the shelter’s no-kill philosophy.

Siemer didn’t return several telephone calls to his city hall office from the Idaho Mountain Express. However, Gardiner said that as the result of discussions with Siemer, he believes the mayor misunderstood the shelter’s policy and is "very comfortable" with the tentative agreement.

McCann, who became the shelter’s manager four months ago, said she believes the shelter can come up with better solutions to killing the animals.

Temporary periods of overcrowding have been caused by unthinking people anonymously dropping off unwanted dogs and cats in the dead of night. During a two-week period in January, McCann said, about 30 puppies were left at the shelter’s doorstep.

A sign on the shelter’s front gate declares, "Do Not Abandon."

As for Siemer, McCann said she’s never met the Hailey mayor and that "to my knowledge," since she’s been there, he’s never visited the shelter.

McCann said the community must be part of the solution to potential overcrowding at the shelter.

"Having a pet is a life-long commitment," she said. "People see the shelter as a problem solver rather than taking responsibility to care for their pets."

Bringing a pet to a shelter, McCann said, should be a last resort, after the owner has done everything in his or her power to keep the pet.

The shelter operates on a yearly budget of $300,000. It is funded in part—approximately $24,000 a year—from the proceeds of dog license sales throughout the valley. The bulk of the shelter’s funding, she said, comes from private sources and fund-raisers.

According to agreements between the shelter and the valley’s cities, the shelter is bound to take in all dogs and cats delivered by any animal control officer. The agreements also call for the destruction of animals that remain unclaimed after five days.

McCann said the agreements were made when the shelter euthanized animals.

"We are now renegotiating the agreements to better represent our current no-kill policy," she said.

McCann said that due to overcrowding, there is a one-month waiting list for pets voluntarily surrendered by their owners. However, the shelter will take in any stray animal picked up by animal control officers or left anonymously on the shelter’s doorstep.

McCann said the shelter will stick with its no-kill policy—that killing the animals is not the cure for overcrowding.

If all the animals that went unclaimed for five days were killed, there wouldn’t be many dogs and cats left in the shelter, she said.

"Killing unclaimed animals only covers up the symptoms instead of solving the root problem," McCann said. "The animals are caught in the middle of it. They don’t choose to be here."

McCann said the shelter has adopted an aggressive spay/neutering program as a way to reduce the number of unwanted or abandoned pets.

"If people spayed and neutered their pets we wouldn’t have an overcrowding problem," McCann said. "People can become actively involved in the solution to overcrowding at animal shelters by voting for stronger spay/neuter laws."

McCann noted that the shelter’s no-kill policy is not absolute.

Aggressive, dangerous animals that can’t safely be put back into the community, or animals that are sick and can’t be cured, are killed, she said.

McCann said the decision to put an animal down is a hard one, but one that shelter workers and the board of directors must confront.

"Everyone at the shelter evaluates animals at risk. The final decision is then made by an euthanasia committee," she said. "Our board doesn’t want to see any animals die, none of us do."

The shelter, she said, takes in 30 to 40 pets a month. Part of the overcrowding issue is a matter of finding a balance between the number of pets adopted and the number taken in.

Dog trainer Gary James works with the animals at the shelter to help make them more adoptable.

James said the community can help place dogs and cats by volunteering to walk dogs and giving the cats some attention.

"Human contact is the key to getting them back into good homes," he said.

For her part, McCann said there are not enough workers at the shelter to always give the animals the attention they require.

"It has to be a community thing," McCann said. "We have to get the community involved in finding homes for the animals."

The shelter is dedicated to caring for animals, McCann made clear.

"That’s the only reason we’re here," she said. "We don’t get paid a lot and it’s a tough and grueling job. Our motivation is that we care for animals and want to give them a good home between homes."

McCann and James said the community can help the shelter’s cause by donating time and money.

The shelter recently opened an isolation room—funded by private donations—to keep sick animals separated from the healthy population.

Plans are also in the works to expand the shelter’s facilities and staff over the next year.

"We’re waiting for snow to melt to expand the outdoor kennels and add indoor and outdoor dog runs," McCann said.


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