$9.6 million tax supports Ingham shelters, betters life for pets

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Volunteer Dora Gaughran goes through her daily checklist in one of the shelter's open-space cat rooms.

Lexi Groce

Volunteer Dora Gaughran goes through her daily checklist in one of the shelter’s open-space cat rooms.”

For many animal lovers, local shelters conjure thoughts of a sad place for pets without a home. Indeed, these temporary homes are full of metal bars, small enclosures, and the noisy racket of barking and howling. But with the approval on Aug. 2 of a millage dedicated to improving the Ingham County Animal Shelter and expanding its services, the outdated shelter will become a clean, welcoming place of hope for lost pets.

The shelter, which has been in use since 1971, enforces state and county animal ordinances. This includes jobs such as dog licensing, picking up strays, investigating animal bites, and enforcing animal cruelty laws, said Ingham County Animal Control Director John Dinon. Animal control also runs a shelter which attempts to find homes for the abandoned pets.

“We’re at about 77 percent of the animals that come in go out, either back to their owner or to a new home, so that’s pretty good for a municipal shelter that has to take everything,” said Dinon.

With so many duties, local shelters require many hands on deck. Without volunteers, many responsibilities would have to be neglected. Roxanne Wilkinson and Dora Gaughran are just two of the workers at the Ingham County Animal Shelter. Wilkinson, who has been working for Ingham County for six years, started with her niece as a way to give back to the community. Now, though, she dedicates her time to not only volunteering, but also as a dog trainer and foster owner.

“I especially like to work with problem dogs. I get to take the crazy guys and work on their manners,” said Wilkinson.

Though Gaughran has given three years to the shelter because of how rewarding it is, it isn’t without hardships.

“It’s the worst thing in the world to fall in love with a pet who comes through here, and have to watch it slowly deteriorate over time. Or send it out to what you thought was the perfect home, and have to watch it come back.” For some, a full-time pet is not a realistic idea. But coming to the shelter is still a haven for hopefuls who just want to visit. Mason resident Crystal Shepard enjoys bringing her daughter, Hailey Shepard, in to watch her joy around the animals.

“We like to look and play, and maybe someday we’ll get to have one of our own,” said Shepard.

Matching families such as the Shepards with their perfect pets is the best part of the job, said Gaughran. And especially for a shelter serving a large community, Dinon is happy with the work the shelter and its employees have done so far.
“We haven’t had to euthanize any adoptable animals in over three years, so we’re feeling pretty good about that,” said Dinon.

The millage that makes this possible will introduce a new tax, 0.24 mills for six years, to provide for a new building, new vet products as well as many more services, such as Sunday hours, increased staffing, separate entrances for animals coming in and going out, an interview room for investigating animal cruelty cases, and training rooms for community outreach. The millage will raise about $9.6 million.

“We help a lot of people and we help a lot of animals. And at the end of the day, I get to go home and be fulfilled knowing just that,” said Dinon.

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