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Animal shelter is a key health and safety program

Johnson City Press • Apr 21, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey is asking the city of Elizabethton to step up its financial support of the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter.

Humphrey appeared at a City Council budget workshop on Wednesday to urge Elizabethton leaders to increase its contribution to the shelter’s operating budget. City Manager Jerome Kitchens has proposed a new budget that would keep that allocation at the same level as the current fiscal year.

Council members said they would like to see the city given more of a voice in the shelter’s operating budget. That’s a fair concern and one that reasonable public leaders can and should work out in a businesslike manner.

The issue now, however, is how to best serve the needs of the animals in the shelter’s care.

Animal control is an essential public service and local governments have a responsibility to treat it as such. That includes properly funding the service at the level it deserves.

We know there will be the usual push back from residents and politicians who argue tax dollars should not be spent to build kennels and pay “dog catchers.” But that’s an inaccurate and outdated perception of what a professional animal shelter program is all about.

Animal control is not some feel-good charity. It is an important health and public safety service that deals with many diverse issues, such as rabies, abandoned animals and abused pets.

It’s OK to ask animal lovers to help with the finances of running an animal control program, but the cost of the entire service should not be placed on the backs of private donors.

And we should never forget that more than 4 million unwanted, abused or aggressive dogs and cats were euthanized last year in the United States.

These deaths would have been unnecessary had pet owners spayed or neutered their animals. That’s another issue that a professional animal shelter must tackle.

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