BY MARY WICOFF
We all know there’s a pet overpopulation problem in Vermilion County. But how serious is it?
“Are there 500 new litters or 3,000 new litters in a year’s time?” Ron Gore of Covington, Ind., asked. “Without the count, we don’t have any idea what we’re up against.”
Gore is spearheading a project to count how many dogs and cats are born in the county.
He and a couple of his friends, Vince Koers and Lynn McLinden, are seeking volunteers to be part of the study. A volunteer would periodically keep an eye open for posters and advertisements listing puppies and kittens in his or her community, and then find out the size and type of the litters. If the volunteer doesn't want to make the call, Gore and his friends will do that.
He added, “This will require very little time or effort on the part of volunteers, but can yield big benefits.”
No personal information will be taken from the litter’s owners and further contact will not be made.
“This is strictly a numbers survey by interested citizens,” Gore said.
Gore had an idea years ago to try to “capture” all litters in Vermilion County and make sure that they were spay or neutered — particularly “free” puppies and kittens — before they went to a new home.
His initial idea was to ask people to bring the litters to the shelter, and then give them $25 if they agreed to spay the mother.
CARA (Citizens for Animal Rescue and Adoption), for example, will not take a litter unless the owner agrees to spay the mother using the organization’s discounted price, Gore said. He also learned that the Lafayette, Ind., shelter has a similar plan whenever space allows.
“So, this is not a completely crazy notion,” he said.
Gore’s idea didn’t get off the ground. In hindsight, he said he wishes it had occurred to him to count the litters born in the county, and that might have helped him sell his idea to animal-control officials.
Recent discussions about merging the city and county animal operations renewed his interest in a count.
“I am now starting to seek volunteers all around the county to watch for ads, signs, postings, etc., anywhere that someone is offering pups and kittens free or for a cost. I want these volunteers to answer the ads and find out how many were in the litter, breed, date of birth and so on,” he said. No names, addresses, or other personal information will be taken from the owners.
“Then, maybe later this year, an assessment can be made as to how to handle that number and a project developed to do something, if practical.
“I think these data might at least offer insight and perhaps interest and money into the situation and it has a scientific approach,” Gore said.
The count is just the first step toward the ultimate goal of reducing the number of unwanted animals in the county and nearby areas.
“We want to stop the problem from being created in the first place,” Koers said. “Nobody likes euthanizing animals.”
Gore said he wants to explore all options, including social networking, Internet, foster homes and shelters — anything to help get a grip on the problem. But, first, he said, “We need to know how many animals we would be dealing with — how many dogs and cats, males and females.”
He said, “If we can get this study going, we believe that many in the community will come forward to help and donate money. But, without the help of volunteer ‘eyes’ in the county, little can be done.”
Gore and Koers said they welcome anyone with ideas to contact them.
Gore and his wife have already posted notices in some of the smaller communities, and now he’s in the process of drafting letters to all county schools seeking volunteers from the teachers.
Koers summed it up: “Everybody has animals’ welfare in mind. In the final analysis, there are too many animals.”
Having a specific count of the number of puppies and kittens born in the county seems to be a good idea. That hard data then can be used to apply for grants or show others how serious the problem is. The bottom line is: Something needs to be done about the pet overpopulation problem. And this seems to be a good start.
Gore said: “We’d like to see CARA short on cats.” Let’s make that happen.
If you’d like to help survey the animal population, call 443-0060 for more information.
Low-cost spay and neutering programs are available through CARA (call 655-4353 or 799-8858 ) and the Vermilion County Animal Shelter Foundation (call 431-0332).
The Pets column runs every four weeks. If you would like to have your pet featured, contact Mary Wicoff at 477-5161, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Commercial-News, 17 W. North, Danville, IL 61832.