County animal shelter looking to public to help them house, reunite lost pets

Editor’s note: This story is part of a Dayton Daily News investigative project titled Billions in COVID aid: Where it’s going. Go here for more on this project, including searchable databases showing how your community spent CARES Act funds and now much it is getting in American Rescue Plan funds.

The Montgomery County Animal Resource Center is increasingly relying on local police and neighbors to reunite lost dogs with their owners and keep them out of the animal shelter.

Montgomery County used nearly $300,000 in federal CARES Act money to support this strategy. This includes $279,191 to purchase a mobile vet clinic and $13,410 purchasing microchip scanners for local police departments.

ExploreHere’s how local governments spent millions in CARES Act funds; Search by community

What this means for the public is that if someone calls ARC about a stray dog, they may be asked to try to find the dog’s owner before having a county worker come pick it up and take it back to the shelter near Vandalia.

“If the stray dog is harmed, vicious, or presents a public safety concern, they are taking those dogs,” said Montgomery County spokeswoman Deb Decker. “The issue is they (the shelter) are at capacity. It seems like the majority of the time when a dog is taken from an area and taken into ARC, that dog is being taken further from its home.”

County officials say if someone finds a stray dog, and it’s approachable, they should first check its tags. If it has a license number, the owner can be looked up on the county’s website. If it has a rabies tag, Public-Health Dayton and Montgomery County can look up the owner if someone calls (937) 225-4460.

If that doesn’t work, ARC says you should call your local police non-emergency number. The county used CARES Act funds to purchase 45 microchip scanners for local officers to help find the owners of lost dogs.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

If that doesn’t work, ARC may ask you to provide temporary shelter for the dog while you check social media and ask neighbors, and register the dog as lost with them and other agencies. They may even ask you to help find the dog a forever home.

“We always like to tell people the shelter is really no place for an animal. All these animals should be in loving homes,” said Kara Hamby, public information officer for ARC. “We want to be available for those pets who truly need us, those who are sick, injured and homeless.”

County officials say ARC still makes patrols, and they spent $2,270 in CARES Act funds to buy seven mobile printers for ARC vehicles so they can photograph lost pets and print out lost-and-found posters on the spot to post in the area where the dog is found.

The shelter has 79 medium/large dog kennels and 40 small kennels and has long been at capacity. Cramming more dogs in there adds to the already stressful situation for the dogs and can cause outbreaks of diseases like kennel cough, county officials say.

Montgomery County reducing animal shelter stays, euthanizations    
Montgomery County Animal Resource officials say they are trying to reunite lost animals and owners outside the shelter, resulting in less crowded animal shelter conditions and fewer euthanizations.     
Year2018201920202021
Dogs taken in 3958372324031641
Dogs adopted out84415461159670
Dogs transferred to other organization823545296225
Dogs returned to owner11781115791532
Dogs euthanized1015391186168
Source: Montgomery County   

The mobile clinic is intended to reduce the population of diseases and stray dogs. It is a fully operational veterinary clinic set up for spaying, neutering and vaccinating pets. The plan is to set it up in centralized locations around the community to offer those services at an affordable price.

The truck was purchased last year, but hasn’t been used for spaying and neutering yet because the county hasn’t hired staff to do the procedures.

The Dayton Daily News contacted the county about these changes after a reader responded to our online survey soliciting questions or concerns about use of federal COVID relief funds.

ExploreDayton Daily News Investigates billions in COVID aid: Where it's going

“If they received any of this funding, what are they doing with it?” the reader asked. “Why are they forcing the community to do their job of reuniting strays with their owners or caring for abandoned dogs? We don’t get paid for it. They do, and they are required to do so under (Ohio Revised Code).”

Decker said the center is responding to concerns from several years ago that ARC was euthanizing too many animals and a need to improve conditions at the shelter.

The number of dogs taken in at the shelter has dropped considerably, from 3,958 in 2018 to 1,641 in 2021, according to county annual reports. The number of dogs euthanized has dropped from 1,015 in 2018 to 168 in 2021.

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