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Pets Caught in the System

by Stacy Conroy What do you do when you see stray animals roaming the streets or people abusing their pets? There are four agencies that deal with animal-related complints in Milwaukee: The Department of Neighborhood Services, the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC), Humane Society, and the Milwaukee Police Department. The Department of Neighborhood Services has 14 districts, each with a Nuisance Control Officer to investigate animal noise, abuse, neglect, and bites. According to Jim Igowsky, Nuisance Control Supervisor, the department gets about 40-50 calls a year. When the animal’s owner is investigated and does not take steps to correct a problem, a citation is issued. The standard price for cruelty is $214 unless the inspector sees the case as particularly severe, in which case a ticket up to $500 can be written with the consent of a judge. A court date is set if the owner contests the ticket. Other possible tickets include lack of shelter, lack of food & water and lack of shade. Citizens can do things to avoid citations. “Use common sense. Make sure you don’t leave your pet out unattended for more than an hour at a time,” says Igowsky. “You need to have continuous unfrozen water available, clean bedding and shelter. The shelter must have a wind break on the door and you have to have water and shade available at all times in the summer.” The Common Council recently passed a new code to the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances, the Pit-bull and Rottweiler Dog Code, Chapter 78-22, designed to deal more effectively with problem dogs. Though to some it may seem that this breed-specific code is unfair to owners of Rottweilers and Pit-bull Terriers, Igowsky stated that the code will only be enforced upon owners of dogs caught at large, allowed to run free, involved in bites, or exhibiting vicious behavior. The code states that owners of dogs with these characteristics must be double penned, with cement floors, and a fence buried one foot underground, no less than three feet from any sidewalk or ally. Owners must also take an annual two-hour animal behavior class at the humane society where they will receive a certificate of attendance. “Just because someone owns either of these breeds doesn’t mean their neighbor can call them in. . . there are a lot of sweet dogs out there who will not be part of this code enforcement,” Igowsky said. When animals are in danger or have bitten someone, Igowsky’s department works closely with the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC). Officials at MADACC are involved with stray dogs and cats, animals hit by vehicles, animal abuse cases such as when drug houses are closed down and pets are abandoned, cat-house complaints, and victims of arranged dog fights. They also transport, house, or quarantine dogs that bite. Len Selkurt, executive director of MADACC, says his organization plans to approach the veterinary community in the Milwaukee area about providing a Spay & Neuter Program for low income pet owners. “We want to take a proactive stance on the overpopulation issues,” says Selkurt. The Milwaukee Police Department, the Department of Neighborhood Services, and concerned citizens contact MADACC regularly for assistance with pickup of stray domestic and exotic animals, bite suspects, and sick and injured domestic and exotic animals. MADACC also helps in finding lost pets. The Commission has an adoption contract with the Milwaukee Humane Society, which holds animals for a full week after they are brought in. On the seventh day the animal is evaluated to determine if it will be accepted for adoption. It is up to each citizen to see that our companion animals are safe, cared for, and not posing a risk to the public. If you repeatedly see a stray animal, odds are it may be homeless. Call MADACC to inquire about what you can do to help them detain the animal.
by Stacy Conroy