Animal Pen donation

Outside Madison’s Main Street Vet, members of the Morgan County animal community gathered Friday to celebrate the donation and placement of pens to help a man comply with the county’s new “no tether” law for pets. Pictured, left to right are Morgan County Commissioner Bill Kurtz, District 5; Rescue Ranch’s Courtney Bryson, Rescue Ranch’s Renee Usser, Morgan County Assistant Manager Mark Williams, Morgan County Board of Commissioners Chairman Philipp von Hanstein, Morgan County Animal Services Director Saskia Thompson, Main Street Vet founder Dr. James Williams with “Cookie,” Former Morgan County Animal Services Director Hope King and Morgan County Humane Society Volunteer Rosmarie Kelly. Front row, left to right, Main Street Vet Office Manager Debbie Howard and Morgan County Humane Society Volunteer Georgia Johnson.

He’s a good man, says Debbie Howard, office manager at Main Street Vet. He has three dogs; Jodie, a grown adult male, Cookie, a small precocious female, and then there is Deuce.

The problem, she says, is the man keeps the dogs on a leash while he works and that, says former Morgan County Animals Services Director Hope King is now against the law in Morgan County.

King, who currently works in finance with Morgan County, began pondering a no tether law last October, wrote the ordinance in the following months and celebrated its passage in May 2021. Now, she says, it is against the law to keep a dog tied. “It’s an inhumane way of keeping your pets,” she says.

Morgan County Board of Commissioner member Bill Kurtz agrees. “It is absolutely inhumane to keep an animal tethered,” Kurtz says while standing outside Main Street Vet. “It’s not fair to the animal.”

The ordinance carries a hefty fine, up to $1,000, for animal owners who disregard the law. But King says the county is more inclined to educate, at least initially, than prosecute.

That concept created a spark in Howard’s mind. The man, who shall remain anonymous, “absolutely loves these dogs,” she says. The dogs were patients at Main Street Vet but the man did not have the funds to erect pens for the animals. Often, the clinic would barter for services for the pets. This time the man agreed to spay the small female, Cookie, at a low cost option through the clinic to receive two dog pens made available by the folks at the Rescue Ranch in Rutledge.

According to the Rescue Ranch’s Renee Usser, the Ranch was able to raise $700 for two pens for the dogs that it purchased at a deep discount from Farmer’s Hardware in Madison. She said a third pen has also been secured.

Last Friday, at a small ceremony at Main Street Vet marking the moment local government and local business came together to solve a problem with education and resolution, the moment was captured in a photo.

King says the county’s impetus for the ordinance is not to punish. “Our main goal is to educate. We don’t want to go out and take a dog.” But, she says, the notion of a dog tied up all day presents other problems beyond cruelty. “It affects an animal’s well-being and mental health. Typically we worry about these dogs becoming aggressive,” she says.

“If you’re going to go out and chain a pet 24-7 you don’t need to have an animal.”

“It’s cruel,” says Usser. “It restricts their mobility and affects their mental state.”

To that end, the Rescue Ranch is currently adding to its already-full slate of proactive solutions to animal well-being by offering to fund raise for people who need outdoor enclosures for their pets. The Ranch currently has a “chips and snips” program providing micro chips for pet owners and low-cost spay and neuter services through Main Street Vet, too.

But on Friday it was all about cutting the chain of three dogs and helping a man keep his pets.

“They look good and he loves them,” Howard says stroking Cookie as she waits in the lobby of the veterinarian’s office. Soon, Jodie, Cookie and Deuce will all be the owners of new, safe enclosures in large part because of a collaboration of the people who love animals.

“I think if you go out with the mindset of you’re trying to help people, they are more receptive,” King says.

For Howard, she knows the pet owner wants the best for his dogs. “I can feel it,” she says.

“I think sometimes that’s all people have, is their dogs.”

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