Nine months ago, Mahon- ing County took one giant leap toward enhancing animal welfare when a new and expansive $4 million dog pound and adoption center opened in Youngstown.
Many rightly heralded the opening as a turning point for the care and treatment of stray, sick and abandoned pooches in our community. After all, it provides nearly twice as much space as the dog warden’s former decades-old pound on Industrial Road, and it boasts a host of state-of-the-art Fido-friendly amenities.
But just as the massive state-supported program that constructed hundreds of shiny new school buildings throughout the Mahoning Valley and the state could not begin to address all of the endemic problems facing public education, the much-improved physical dog shelter in and of itself cannot begin to resolve the plethora of woes that surround caring for an ever-increasing population of helpless dogs in dire need of shelter, medical attention and compassion.
A chorus of dog lovers and animal-rights activists in our region drove that point home poignantly last week when addressing a variety of concerns to Mahoning County commissioners and the county dog warden.
Some lamented what they perceive to be a lack of adequate medical care for some dogs, particularly in treating those that test positive for heartworm, an often fatal infectious disease.
Others argued that the pound is putting to death too many dogs without giving all of them a fighting chance for survival and adoption.
Still others bemoaned what they viewed as a lack of adequate staff that results in too many dogs quarantined with little time for exercise and socialization.
Some of those concerns also were raised last week in a private meeting between Jason Cooke, a respected animal-rights activist, and County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti and Dog Warden Dianne Fry.
Theyand other officials said they will take the complaints to heart, investigate them and work for improvements. But given static funding and staffing, and, yes, even space constraints in the new 14,000-square-foot facility, those officials realistically may likely be able to accomplish only so much.
MORE HELP, SUPPORT NEEDED
They’ll continue to need help, particularly from pet owners and pet lovers, to seriously address the gnawing problem of finding warm, loving, secure and responsible permanent homes dogs left to the care of the pound. After all, the pound is and always has been designed as a temporary oasis for animals in crisis.
There are several ways to help. First, those contemplating taking on the rigors of pet ownership should make the county dog pound a first stop, not an afterthought, in their quest to find a loving pet companion.
That means antiquated myths about dog pounds as dumping grounds for old, sickly and vicious dogs must be put to rest.
To stimulate an uptick in pound adoptions, Cooke and Diane Less, Angels for Animals co-founder, are collaborating on a project called “Do Your Part and Save a Heart.” It aims to boost adoption rates – and lessen euthanization rates – for dogs at the shelter with heartworm. People who foster them will be given food and treatment for the generally easily curable condition.
Those wanting to make a difference in the daily care of dogs at the county shelter also would be wise to join the growing ranks of Friends of Fido, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to the welfare of dogs housed at the county shelter.
Members of Friends of Fido truly live up to their catchy alliterative name. They take time daily to walk, play with and bond with pound dogs. They finance spaying, neutering and other procedures to enable dogs stand a better chance at a permanent home.
The group offers members and supporters ample opportunities to make a difference. This Thursday, in fact, the group will sponsor its annual celebrity bartender fundraiser at The Lake Club in Poland. Check out the group’s website at friendsoffidomahoning.org for details.
Collectively, then, taking disciplined and compassionate care for one’s own pets, seeking the Mahoning County dog shelter as a first choice for adopting dogs and supporting the pound through volunteering or donating can go far toward addressing the legitimate concerns vented last week and toward ensuring a dog’s life can be as healthy and happy as possible.