CASS COUNTY — The Cass County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to look into the need for a county-wide animal shelter and the possibility of using COVID relief funds to help get the project off the ground.
“I have a lot of people talk to me about things they would like to see some ARPA funding go to and one of them brought up to me was a county-wide animal shelter,” Supervisors Steve Green said Tuesday. “I think we’ve looked at this in the past but didn’t do any deep analysis.”
The issue has been around since at least 2012 when mayors from around the county met at least twice to discuss the idea. The issue has come up at least twice more over the years but nothing has ever come of the discussions.
Officials say that without a county-wide shelter animals wounded animals found by good samaritans are brought to local vets who then treat the animals without knowing who the owner is and sometimes without being compensated. They add there is no procedure or place to take stray or abandoned animals found out in the county.
The city of Atlantic does maintain a shelter but does not take animals outside of the city limits.
Kris Erickson, Atlantic Animal Shelter Director, said Wednesday she has to turn away animals from outside the area, sometimes suggesting the animals should be taken to local city officials or in some cases returned to where they were found.
“If it’s a farm dog, they know where they’re at — so a lot of times I just say take it back to where you found it,” she said.
The Atlantic facility is partially funded through city tax dollars and can accommodate up to nine dogs. It is maintained by volunteers and city employees who work part-time at the shelter and part-time in other city departments.
“Maybe that is something we can look at — my first impression is that would be an ongoing animal we would have to feed,” Green said. “But I don’t think it would hurt the board if over the next few months we take a look at things and find out what has worked in other places and what hasn’t worked.”
The county had just over $2 million in COVID relief funding, some of which has been allocated to area day care services among others.
Board Chairman Steve Baier said that in the past the cost of operating the facilities has led to cost overruns and the closing of shelters.
“Mills county had one “for a period of time,” he said. “And I think they lost $70,000 on the operation the first year and when it got to losing $90,000 a year the county got out of it.”
He added that most counties that have a shelter are run by volunteers — the number of which can ebb and flow — and in the end they don’t “solve the problem we’re hearing the most complaints about.”
Supervisors John Hartkopf agreed to spearhead the effort to gather information on the issue.
“I think maybe we should look into it in terms of the cost and the data — let’s do a real, true analysis of the whole thing and find out where it stands,” he said.