Fort Smith is looking for ways to deal with abandoned and sheltered animals in the city

FORT SMITH — City managers had Fort Smith Animal Haven present during their study session on Tuesday to see how the city can help with a recent increase in alerts of stray and missing animals from the public.

Shelter Board Treasurer Brenda Altman said the shelter’s mission is to care for dogs and cats abandoned by owners and lost or injured animals brought in by Fort Smith Animal Control – not wild animals – and either to reunite them with their families or to place them in a new loving home.

Altman said the shelter is at capacity with 397 animals — 160 dogs and 67 cats in the shelter, and 100 dogs and 63 cats in foster homes. She said that due to lack of space, some animals in the shelters are kept outdoors, but they have access to shade and water at all times and are supplemented with zinc to cope with the thermal stress. The shelter has also ordered fans typically used for farm animals to be placed outdoors.

Altman said the transfer rate for dogs is 58% and the adoption rate is 16%; the figure is almost reversed for cats with 16% transfers and 56% adoptions. Many shelters in southern states are full, so Animal Haven is looking for additional partners to transfer animals to northern states, she said.

“In Chicago, they pay $400 or $500 for these animals, and we can’t adopt them for $50. They don’t pay us, but that’s why they take our animals, because they can transform them,” Altman said.

Altman said the shelter has a 4% euthanasia rate, which is lower than the 10% listed by the Animal Humane Society to be considered a no-kill shelter. She said the average length of stay for an animal is about 45 days, which is partly due to a recent increase in cases of cruelty to animals, which must be kept by the shelter for 60 days. Other animals are only required to stay for five days before they can be adopted.

“And that’s pretty sad. The things we’re seeing right now, I think we’ve had 28 cases of cruelty in the shelter since July 1,” Altman said.

Altman said the shelter was concerned about the potential recession and inflation and people were dropping their animals off at the shelter as a result. She said Animal Haven veterinarians want to visit Hope Campus once a month to feed and care for all pets owned by homeless people, and work with Animal Control to help care for residents’ pets so that they can stay at home and not at the shelter.

Fort Smith Animal Control is part of the police department and therefore receives money through the city.

The shelter is also funded by the city, as well as public and private donations.

Chief Executive Robyn Dawson asked Chief of Police Danny Baker if he was happy with the way the shelter is run. Baker said there has been a marked improvement, but the shelter needs more space, as well as support from the city through its ordinances.

“I’ve always had a bit of reservations about the amount of money we spend, but compared to what other cities of comparable size and jurisdiction are spending, I think we’re doing a pretty good deal in that regard. “, said Baker. . “I think if we strengthened our orders, or if we didn’t have to do so much transportation and spend money shipping these animals out of Fort Smith and returning them to their owners and holding their owners accountable, we wouldn’t spend so much.”

Chapter 4 of the city code sets out the city rules regarding animals.

Section 7, passed in August 2019, requires any resident with a dog or cat over the age of four months to obtain a license for the animal within 60 days. This delay also applies to new residents with a dog or a cat. All dogs and cats must have microchip identification, as well as some form of secondary identification, unless exceptions are granted by the city.

The city also offers different pet license fees for microchipped and modified dogs and cats — that is, spayed or neutered — and those that are not with some exceptions, depending on the code. . Modified and microchipped pets are charged $10 each for their lifetime, while their unmodified, non-microchipped counterparts cost $60 each per year. However, people 65 or older don’t have to pay a license fee for a modified, microchipped pet and only $20 per year per pet that isn’t.

One-year breeder licenses are available from the city for $500 per dog or cat, in addition to a city-issued business license, the code says.

Altman said microchipping the animals would help reduce the number of strays because Animal Control checks them when they catch an animal.

Dawson agreed that there are some things the shelter cannot fix or control, and the city may have been lax on animal ordinances due to its partnership with Animal Haven.

“I think the shelter is doing its best. I don’t want them to take over their capacity for animals that they’re allowed to have,” Dawson said. “I want them to only stay within the capacity limits that we have agreed on. But we have to deal with issues like licensing, microchipping, neutering and neutering of animals in this town, and we dropped that ball.”

Chief Executive Neal Martin wondered if the city could find a way to incentivize pet owners to obey the ordinance and discourage those who don’t. He asked the board to have another meeting on this topic so they can discuss the options.

Office Manager Lois Madden (right) helps Shatausha Davis of Fort Smith adopt two cats, Moxxie and Blitzo, Thursday, July 28, 2022, at the Fort Smith Animal Haven in Fort Smith. At the Town of Fort Smith Board of Directors meeting this week, representatives from Animal Haven discussed their operations and the fact that the facility is too crowded to accommodate stray animals. Visit nwaonline.com/220731Daily/ for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)
Photo Bureau Chief Lois Madden pets a pair of black cats Thursday, July 28, 2022, at the Fort Smith Animal Haven in Fort Smith. At the Town of Fort Smith Board of Directors meeting this week, representatives from Animal Haven discussed their operations and the fact that the facility is too crowded to accommodate stray animals. Visit nwaonline.com/220731Daily/ for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)