Knox dog shelter considered, laws must be looked at first

— Mohawk Hudson Humane Society

Coral, a pitbull-terrier mix, is held at the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands. The town of Knox currently uses the shelter to hold dogs found in town, meaning the dog-control officer as well as residents must make a 40-minute drive to drop off or pick up a dog.

KNOX — The town of Knox is looking to establish a dog shelter at its maintenance building. The hope is that it will reduce shelter fees and travel time, as dogs picked up by the town’s dog-control officer now must be brought to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands. But, before a Knox shelter can be set up, a 20-year-old law must be changed.

Lou Saddlemire, the dog-control officer for Knox for the last five years, said the process of retrieving a dog can be particularly arduous for an owner if the dog is not licensed. Saddlemire can keep the dog at the maintenance station in town for 24 hours before he must bring it to Menands, which he says happens about once a month out of the 50 or 60 calls he gets each year. Owners of a licensed dog will have their name, address, and phone number on file and Saddlemire said he usually can contact these owners over the phone or on Facebook. Most of the dogs that go Menands are not licensed.

The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society on its website lists over 60 municipalities that work with it, although Knox was not listed.

“The whole process is complicated,” said Saddlemire of the means an owner must use to pick up a dog.

Owners have to go to the Menands shelter to identify their dogs, but cannot pick them up if they are not licensed. The owners then must return to Knox, have the part-time town clerk come in, and license the dogs. The dogs must then be brought to a veterinarian for a rabies vaccine, as the license requires. The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society’s website says that a veterinarian is available onsite to administer the shot for an additional fee, although Saddlemire said he has heard of owners having to go offsite to find a veterinarian. Only then can the owner bring the dog home. Owners also must pay holding fees, which come to $65 per day.

“People get upset when they have to spend hours on the road and money,” said Saddlemire.

Shelter’s view

A dog may be kept at the shelter in Menands for five days if it is not identified or seven days if it does have identification, according to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society’s website, and then it is surrendered to the shelter. The town must then pay the holding fees, which can total around $325 for each unlicensed dog that is not retrieved.

Brad Shear, president and chief executive officer of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, said that the fees charged depend on an agreement with the municipality; some are a flat rate per dog and some are per day. He added that these are charged to the town, which may in turn charge a resident, but the humane society does not charge the public.

Towns like Colonie, for example, often have dogs reclaimed within two days, and so it makes sense to charge per day, Shear said. If a municipality does not have dogs claimed quickly or very often, a flat rate may be better.

 

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— Mohawk Hudson Humane Society
Dogs are held in a kennel at the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands. The shelter can hold up to 75 dogs. Should Knox establish its own shelter, the dog-control officer says it would hold up to three dogs.

 

Shear also said that the fees cover the cost of around-the-clock care for the animals, veterinary care, and the cost of advertising dogs for adoption. The majority of dogs brought to the shelter are not picked up by owners, he added.

The requirement to license a dog before releasing it is part of the state Agriculture and Markets law, said Shear.

Shear said that the shelter has three veterinarians and two vet technicians on staff to provide rabies vaccinations. Although all five staffers are not available at the same time, at least one is on hand every day of the week except Saturdays.

The shelter can hold about 75 dogs at a time, said Shear.

“We’re expanding, so that’ll go up to 100,” he added.

Shear said that owners who arrive at a shelter after their dog has been surrendered will have to go through the same collection process.

The last he heard of a dog being euthanized before an owner could retrieve it was about eight or nine years ago, he said.

“It’s pretty unusual for that to happen,” said Shear. “We do not euthanize for time limits.”

He added that as long, as there is no behavior problem or the dog is not very sick, it will not be euthanized. Of the dogs that are brought in, 90 percent are adopted, he said.

Shear said, as Knox does not bring in many dogs, switching to a new shelter or building its own would not affect the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society.

“I think they’ve got to do what’s best for their town,” said Shear.

He suggested that Knox reach out to a municipality like Schenectady, which started a municipal shelter, and added that the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society would also be able to speak to Knox about setting up a shelter.

“One of the things that towns don’t think about is that you have to be there,” said Shear. He explained that sheltering an animal requires an employee to be on hand, even on holidays and weekends, which not every town can manage to do.

Knox’s situation

Saddlemire has been looking into setting up a shelter in town for some time, but he said that things “came to a head” in February 2016. He had picked up two dogs and informed Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis, who was one month into his first term, that in total it would likely cost the town around $650. This surprised and upset the newly installed supervisor, said Saddlemire.

If a shelter is established in town, the hope is that the driving-time for both Saddlemire and dog owners will decrease, as will the cost to the town. According to Lefkaditis, there is a minimal cost for setting up a shelter at the maintenance building (where Saddlemire already works as the town’s maintenance supervisor).

Saddlemire said he is looking at a maximum of three dogs being held in the building. It would need to be ventilated, heated, have proper lighting, and a type of transfer door to let the dog out. This is required by New York State Agriculture and Markets law.

The town briefly used a shelter owned by Joe Durma in the town of Wright in Schoharie County. Durma is the dog-control officer for Wright. According to Lefkaditis, this brought shelter fees down from $65 to $15 a day per dog.

Saddlemire said this was established in June or July last year, but he last used it in September before the contract was stopped. He said Knox had written a contract with Durma, rather than the town of Wright, which is not allowed by Agriculture and Markets law.

“The town attorney had to work on some contract corrections between the two entities,” Lefkaditis said in a message to The Enterprise. He added that, once this is done, the town will go back to using Durma’s shelter.

Durma, when reached, referred all questions to Lefkaditis.

Lefkaditis said that the contract with Durma lasted for eight or nine months — from the first quarter of 2016 until the last — and was stopped after Saddlemire alerted him to the mistake. He said Knox was able to keep dogs in Durma’s shelter up to five days, but the amount of time could vary depending on the circumstances as stipulated in Agriculture and Market laws.

Lefkaditis said he has left several messages that were not returned by the town of Wright.

Councilwoman Amy Pokorny said that, although Durma’s shelter was more convenient than the one in Menands, it is more feasible to set up a shelter in Knox than try to use the shelter in Wright. She said that Durma’s shelter not only serves the town of Wright, but also other towns in Schoharie County.

“They didn’t really have the capacity for everyone,” she said.

Town of Wright Supervisor Alex Luniewski said that Durma uses a private kennel which serves Wright. The kennel is inspected by the state annually, he said. Luniewski said he was not aware of a contract with Knox but said he believed Durma did have contracts with other towns. He said that “a gentleman from Knox” had called the town offices a few times.

Luniewski said that Durma was only able to shelter dogs for 24 hours before taking them to the Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley in Howes Cave in Schoharie County.

Town supervisors Philip R. Skowfoe Jr., of Fulton; Christopher W. Tague, of Schoharie; and Shawn J. Smith, of Blenheim, confirmed that their towns — all of them in Schoharie County — also use Durma as their dog-control officer and use his private kennel. After a certain amount of time — Smith said it was about three days — the dogs are brought to the Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley. Tague said “Usually it’s very short term.”

Lefkaditis said that, once the Knox town board allows it, the shelter in town could be built in two weeks. But, before that can be done, said Saddlemire, a 20-year-old-law must be changed.

Saddlemire is part of a committee looking to update Local Law No. 2 of the year 1997. The committee also includes Councilwoman Pokorny, Councilman Dennis Barber, Town Clerk Tara Murphy, and town resident Dee Woessner. The group began meeting in November, and is on its third of fourth meeting, said Saddlemire.

“You can’t really put together a dog shelter if the local law is from 1997,” he said.

Pokorny said the current law allows owners not to leash their dogs in public, rather owners are required to have “control” over the dogs, which can be argued not to require a leash.

She said dogs in Knox are not aggressive, but some can be intimidating.

“Or they charge at Lou while he’s mowing the grass,” she later added.

The committee is now considering a requirement for dogs to be leashed in parks, said Pokorny.

“At least during certain hours,” she added.

Other changes may “just be filling in” requirements on dog control from Agriculture and Markets law, said Pokorny. But the committee is also looking into other dog-control issues. The latest town newsletter included an announcement from the group on dog licensing. It also included information on the feasibility of a dog shelter in town.

Pokorny said the county offers clinics where dogs can receive a free rabies vaccination. The next one being offered — for cats, dogs, and ferrets — according to the county website, will be at the Berne Highway Garage on March 18. The committee may look into setting a clinic up in Knox in the spring.

Saddlemire said that this process of changing the law could take six to 10 months, and an updated law would have to be followed by a “dog enumeration,” or a count of dogs in town. He estimates somewhere between 500 to 600 dogs live in Knox — a town with about 2,700 people — while only 100 to 200 licenses have been issued.

“We know that the number is much lower than it should be,” said Pokorny.

Pokorny said she hopes the town will establish a program to license more dogs before an enumeration occurs. Licensing dogs means that they are vaccinated against rabies, and the cost of dog control is supported by the license fees rather than by all taxpayers in town, who may or may not own dogs.

Shear said that research shows the best way to quickly retrieve your dog is to have it licensed. He added that a collar with identification can help as well, and a tracking chip can be even more helpful should the dog lose its collar.

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