AMHERST – It can be difficult fighting rumours that spread through social media, but officials with both the L.A. Animal Shelter and Amherst Police Department are attempting to do just that.
Shelter president Terri McCormick and Amherst Police Chief Ian Naylor are clarifying the shelter’s role in handling stray dogs collected by the town’s canine control officer.
“There seems to be some miscommunication out there about how dogs are handled, even though there is a bylaw out there that clearly states what the fees are,” McCormick said. “We want to get information out there that informs people what happens with their dog is picked up.”
McCormick said misinformation posted on social media is not helping the animal shelter and in some cases people have come to the shelter and have been verbally abusive toward its staff.
“They think staff decides the fees and that the dogs have to have a rabies vaccination so they take it out on the staff,” McCormick said. “There’s lots of misinformation on social media saying things like the town doesn’t support the shelter when in fact we’re all partners and we all work together.”
Mayor Dr. David Kogon, who is also the town’s representative on the shelter’s board of directors, said Amherst fully supports the organization that provides a valuable service to the community.
“We provide a grant every year and the money from fees and fines is given to the shelter, but it’s the town that sets those fees,” the mayor said.
Amherst’s bylaw prohibits dogs from running at large within the town. Once a dog is picked up by the canine control officer, or a police officer, it is taken to the shelter in Upper Nappan.
“The town bylaw sets out fines for breaking the bylaw as well as the fees if a dog is impounded,” Naylor said.
Owners can claim a licensed dog after paying a $30 impound fee for the first offence along with a $15 a day boarding fee while the fee for an unlicensed dog is $100 for the first offence plus the kennel fee. McCormick said the shelter retains the fee which covers kenneling the animal, its food and a medical check by shelter staff.
Naylor said few dogs are licensed within the town. There have been approximately 90 tags issued this year. He said the numbers have been higher in previous years.
Having the dog licensed has advantages in the impound fee is lower and shelter officials can locate a dog’s owner much quicker.
“We can locate the owner by that tag,” McCormick said.
Dogs won’t be released until proof of licensing is provided, there is verification the dog has an up to date rabies vaccination and all fees and medical expenses (if any) are paid.
She stressed the shelter does not employ someone to go around town looking for stray dogs. Animals are brought to the shelter by animal control, police or the public because it’s considered a safe space.
If a dog is not claimed with 72 hours, the animal becomes eligible for adoption. The shelter keeps dogs for at least seven days before adoption to complete a behaviour assessment.
“The message we want to get out there is that we’re the good guys. If your animal is here it’s safe. If we weren’t here it could be out there alone or get hit by a car,” McCormick said. “If we know it’s someone’s dog or we see something on Facebook we’ll call, but in most cases we have no information. We only have two staff and there isn’t the time to post pictures on Facebook or call around looking for an owner. There’s an onus on the owner. Educate yourself on what you should do if your dog gets out because it happens.”
McCormick said a dog owner can call the shelter or send a message to it via Facebook if they’ve lost their animal. The shelter, she said, is always looking for volunteers and welcomes people to come out and see how the facility operates.