Animal abandonment rising in county, sometimes with fatal result

The Huntington County Humane Shelter says animal abandonment is on the rise in the county, sometimes with dangerous or even fatal consequences.

“Abandoning animals at the shelter is a very big problem, and a lot of people don’t realize that the majority of them do not stay there,” says Huntington Animal Control Officer Jean Wilson. “If they do not bring them in during our business hours when we ask them to and they just leave them on the property, we can’t guarantee that they are safe.”

One such abandonment recently led to the death of a dog on Old U.S. 24. It occurred around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23, when Wilson discovered a reddish color male Labrador retriever mix dog running loose around the shelter building. When she approached the dog, he let out a low growl and ran from her.

Efforts by shelter personnel to corral the animal, including setting a live trap baited with canned food, were unsuccessful.

“The dog was very fearful and would not come to us at all,” Wilson says. “Monday, I came in early in the morning and he was still hanging around the shelter property. No luck with the live trap, and he still would not get anywhere close to me.”

On Tuesday, they found the dog’s body on the side of the entrance ramp to U.S.-24.

“It’s a very sad situation,” Wilson says. “It’s one of those that happens a lot more than it should.”
Hot on the heels of the grief shelter workers felt over the incident, last week someone abandoned a dog at the shelter that had the parvo virus.

“They had abandoned it on our back doorstep. The way that they secured the dog, they had it on a leash and placed a rock over the top of the leash. Of course, that did not hold the dog down. It proceeded to get up and drag itself all over our property,” Wilson recalls. “We had to disinfect the property for that. And the same exact day, two hours later, (shelter employee) Clint (Stockert) went to take the trash out and opened the back door to a pitbull standing there, not even five minutes before we opened.”

Over the past weekend, someone dumped a litter of four-week-old kittens at the shelter. Wilson says hardly any cats stay at the building if they are abandoned there.

Abandoning animals is a crime – it is a Class A misdemeanor, Wilson says. Bringing an animal into the shelter and surrendering it to the staff during business hours only costs $10, which covers food costs. If the animal is a stray found in Huntington County, there is no fee. Animals brought in from outside the county have a $75 fee.

The shelter used to offer fenced-in areas for people to bring their unwanted pets, but the animals would often break out of the gates. Tethering dogs to a gate or fence often results in the frightened animals mangling the gates and fences, Wilson says.

“People don’t understand when they do leave a dog on the property, we don’t know how they’re going to act when we get there. Are they going to be friendly? Are they scared? Are they going to be aggressive?” Wilson says. “We have actually had a lot of aggressive dogs that jeopardize the public.”

In addition, animals left alone together that are not from the same family can fight, and the result is often serious injuries to them.

Wilson says the staff does not intend to “shame” anyone who must bring their pet to the shelter. However, there are several questions the staff will ask those who bring in animals. While some may be personal, none are meant to be judgmental.

“We need to know why they’re surrendering the dog. If there is an issue in the home that they’re surrendering the dog, we need to know what it is,” she explains. “That way, when we go to place that dog in a new home, if there’s a similar situation going on we know not to place that dog in that home. If they bring in a dog that has a problem with children, we’re not going to place that dog in a home with children.”

Wilson says the Humane Shelter understands that losing a home to foreclosure, an animal’s behavior problems or other issues may make it necessary to bring a pet to them.

“It’s something they can’t help,” she adds. “A lot of people are just financially unable to take care of them anymore. It’s one of those where it’s, ‘I feed my dog or I feed myself.’ We understand. But at the same time, we have to ask a lot of hard questions. … Don’t feel guilty. We understand.”