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Council supports plan to tame cat, dog problem

Too many unwanted cats and dogs are causing problems in Alexandria and Douglas County.

The number of animals impounded and euthanized costs local governments and the Lakes Area Humane Society a lot of money.

The solution: An ongoing program to spay and neuter animals.

Christen Klimek, director of the Lakes Area Humane Society (LAHS), addressed the problem at an Alexandria City Council meeting Monday night.

She said that LAHS currently offers low-cost spay assistance with money from the Frances Curran Foundation.

Since the program started in August 2006, more than 2,100 Douglas County pet owners have received money to help pay for their female cats and dogs to be spayed.

The program reduces the huge numbers of unwanted animal births, reduces euthanasia rates, lowers costs of animal control services and ultimately saves taxpayers' money, Klimek said.

Funding for the program, however, is expected to end this year, Klimek said. That's why the LAHS is turning to the county for help and is seeking support from LaGrand Township, Alexandria Township and the city of Alexandria.

The county used to contribute $8,000 toward the program but it's not paying anything now.

Last year, Alexandria paid $40,338 in animal impound costs; LaGrand Township paid $23,582; and Alexandria Township paid $27,797.

That totals $91,717. The LAHS, said Klimek, plans to coordinate efforts with the city and the townships of Alexandria and LaGrand to ask the county to match that $91,000 for the next five years. She noted that the program has been effective in Grant County.

Another option is for the county to at least implement a $1 per capita commitment toward the spay/neuter program. This would generate about $38,000 per year and the money would go directly to county residents to reduce the costs of spaying and neutering.

Otter Tail County has had success with its per capita program, Klimek said.

The problem of unwanted cats and dogs can get out of control quickly, Klimek said.

One unspayed female cat, her mate and their offspring can produce 376 animals in three years, she explained. The number explodes to 11,801 after five years and to more than 420,000 in seven years.

Likewise, an unspayed female dog, her mate and their offspring can produce 67,000 animals in six years.

Klimek added that it's not just an animal welfare issue; it's a public safety issue. An estimated 4.7 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs every year. Dogs that are not spayed or neutered are three times more likely to bite, she said.

Louis Ross, an Alexandria Township Board member, supports the LAHS efforts. He told the council that bringing the animal population under control requires a proactive, not a reactive, approach.

Ross said that Alexandria Township spends more money on animal control right now than on senior programs or parks. Those costs will only climb if dogs and cats aren't spayed or neutered, he said.

The council voted 5-0 to support the LAHS' efforts to obtain funding from the county for a spay/neuter program.

Please see Friday's Echo Press for more council action.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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