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Editorial: Keep an eye on city pound

Saturday, August 16, 2014
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People who harbor dangerous dogs with tough-guy names like Tyson and Vick (presumably after notorious convicted felons Mike Tyson and Michael Vick), can’t be considered disinterested parties when it comes to judging the appropriateness of an animal shelter where their dogs have been impounded (and from which they’ve helped their dogs escape).

Nor do they have much credibility.

But members of the McKearn family, owners of Tyson and Vic, weren’t the only ones to raise questions about the way Schenectady’s animal control shelter is being run.

And even though the pound passed muster after unannounced visits by an animal control advocate, members of the media and the City Council, it’s probably not a bad idea for people like that to keep the place on their radar, just to make sure the operation isn’t allowed to slide.

We’ve seen it often enough with animal collectors — well-intentioned dog lovers who take in strays until they get over their heads financially and in terms of the work that’s required.

If that can happen to an animal lover, it can surely happen to a city police department that doesn’t have unlimited financial resources or staffing. We’d be surprised — and disappointed, frankly — if impounded animals were given high priority by law enforcement officials. And since the former couldn’t cry out to alert the public if conditions started to slide, the public would do well to pay at least a little attention.

Despite claims on an anonymous Facebook page, the shelter appears to have been built to adequate size; there are windows and adequate ventilation, if not air conditioning.

An animal control advocate who visited the place said there was no evidence that the dogs weren’t being properly fed, and allegations by a Rottweiler rescue group and one of the McKearns that the dogs’ runs were foul with urine and feces could not be confirmed by other visitors.

City officials seem to be taking the right approach by embracing offers from animal welfare groups to volunteer their time to care for the dogs — walking them outside — and to improve their living conditions by getting their quarters air-conditioned. This is not a problem, as long as the volunteers are law-abiding (and don’t try any tricks to spring dogs against a judge’s orders) and as long as it doesn’t cost the city anything.

It will take some time to coordinate such efforts with animal control officers. They, too, should make an effort to cooperate with volunteers.

And the City Council should consider appointing one of its members to serve as a liaison between the department, its animal control officers and the public to make sure things run smoothly.

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