County enters contract with Degenhardt on housing strays

By Ali Holcomb

Stray dogs in Jackson County will have a new temporary home while they wait to be adopted.

Jackson County has entered into an agreement with Dan Degenhardt, owner and veterinarian at Banner Creek Animal Hospital in Holton, to shelter stray dogs dropped off at the clinic by any Jackson County resident.

The county commissioners have verbally agreed to pay Banner Creek Animal Hospital $600 a month to house and adopt out stray dogs in the county. Alex Morrissey, county counselor, is drawing up a contract for both parties to sign.

The county’s contract with the Heart of Jackson Humane Society was terminated by commissioners at the end of June, and in July, the commissioners entered into a verbal agreement with Degenhardt to house stray or vicious dogs picked up solely by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. That initial agreement was for $300 a month.

Since July, four puppies and a hound dog were brought into the clinic by law enforcement for shelter, commissioners said, and several of them have already been adopted.

With the new contract agreed upon Monday, any Jackson County resident can drop off or surrender a dog at the clinic during business hours, which are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The clinic will also continue to house dogs brought in by the sheriff’s office.

The $600 a month payment to BCAH will be used to cover shelter and medical expenses for all dogs. Clinic staff will not pick up any stray animals, it was noted.

Commissioners and clinic staff are drawing up an adoption policy and criteria for residents wanting to adopt a dog being sheltered at the clinic, Commissioner Janet Zwonitzer said.

Earlier this summer, commissioners presented a new set of requirements to the humane society in order to remain in contract with the county. One requirement was that the humane society house abandoned or stray dogs brought in by any Jackson County resident. Previously, the society would only house dogs from unincorporated areas of the county and not those found within city limits unless each city had a contract with the shelter.

When members of the humane society board sent a letter to the commissioners stating they could not meet the new requirements due to limited physical and financial resources, the commissioners voted to terminate the county’s contract with the society. The county’s annual contract with the society was for $22,349.

All commissioners agreed that the humane society’s shelter in Holton is a nice facility but that they have concerns with its operation.

Zwonitzer said some members of the society are worried that stray dogs will be killed at Banner Creek Animal Hospital if they can’t be adopted. The humane society runs a “no-kill” shelter.

“Dan [Degenhardt] is not a proponent of euthanization. They will find them homes,” Zwonitzer said. “It’s easy to be a no-kill shelter when you can pick and choose what animals to shelter. The reality is that some dogs may not be adoptable, but we’ll do our best to find them homes.”

Since it’s an established clinic, Zwonitzer said that the staff at Banner Creek Animal Hospital already know many pet owners and residents in the county who would make great adoptees for stray dogs.

The county’s contract with Degenhardt is effective immediately, and residents can now take strays to the clinic for shelter any time between business hours.

For more information, call the clinic at 364-4560.