Millage defeat prompts fresh approach to serving needs of county animals


LAPEER COUNTY — Last November, Lapeer County residents defeated a 0.20-mill proposal to fund Lapeer County Animal Control for five years.

Since the setback at the polls, the agency’s incoming staff has essentially restructured and rebooted to continue serving the county’s animal population.

‘Rudy,’ currently the longest resident at the Lapeer County Animal Shelter, is anxiously awaiting someone to adopt him.

They have done so by launching various community outreach programs whose purpose is to keep the animal shelter open and to sustain necessary services.

Animal Control’s current staff includes Director Dave Eady, and full-time Animal Control Officers Rachel Horton, Stephanie King and Erica Zuhlke.

Horton acknowledged King and Zuhlke as being veterinary technicians who are well-educated and knowledgeable in the areas of animal restraint, capture, behavior analysis and medical care.

The current staff succeeds part-time kennel attendants who were laid off during budget cuts in early April and opted not to return.

Horton added that yet another former officer required surgery and decided to retire in November of 2020.

The series of departures required a rethinking of how best to continue serving the county’s animal population.

“It helps that Erica (Zuhlke) is the founder of Critter Crossing Rehabilitation,” Horton said. “In previous years our animal control team could not safely respond to wildlife calls or emergencies.

“Now, we can respond to those calls and have a staff member available to connect the public with resources.”

To further enhance operations, the department has been partnering with various local services and resources, including Animal Medical Center, Arborview Veterinary Clinic, Thorpe Animal Hospital, Kelly’s Pet Salon, Fox Run Animal Hospital, Pet Supplies Plus, Tractor Supply (TSC), Paradise Animal Rescue, Comfort Kennels, 2nd Chance and others.

“We cannot thank all of these people enough for trusting in us, and for giving Lapeer County Animal Control another chance to improve the lives of animals,” said Horton. “Through these partnerships, it is significantly easier for us to get veterinary care, supplies, grooming services, behavioral training and rescue assistance.”

Licensing clinic

Horton reported that Animal Control staff recently hosted a combination licensing and rabies vaccination clinic at the Lapeer TSC store on March 6. It’s a program they hope to repeat on a regular basis in the future.

“We’re hoping to do more events like this with TSC and Pet Supplies Plus,” she said.

“Such events make it easy for dog owners to both vaccinate and get a license for their animals at the same time and same location.”

Pictured above are Lapeer County Animal Control’s current staff members. They include (L-R): Officer Stephanie King, Director Dave Eady, Officer Erica Zuhlke and Officer Rachel Horton.

Friends Group

Horton said the agency is in the process of establishing a separate “Friends of Lapeer County Animal Control” 501c3, for the purpose of obtaining nonprofit status.

“Our goal is to provide veterinary care to all animals before adoption,” she said, “and to participate in more community events to boost awareness, education and adoptions.”

Horton added that a separate Facebook group exists for volunteers and rescue partners to more easily share news and information.

Other community outreach efforts include animal education programs, spaying/neutering clinics, and encouraging residents to purchase needed items from the agency’s Amazon wish list.

Listed among the most-needed items are leashes, collars, toys, blankets, towels, stainless steel bowls, treats, chews and dry and canned dog and cat food; flea/tick medicines, grooming supplies, bedding, cat litter and food and storage containers.

Also needed are cleaning supplies, such as Lysol, bleach, gloves, dish soap, sponges, Kennelsol, room refresher spray, paper towels, trash bags and hand sanitizer.

Going door-to-door

Because Lapeer County Animal Control raises the majority of its funding through the process of issuing dog licenses, the staff has recently resorted to canvassing neighborhoods for the purpose of getting more residents to license their dogs.

When no one is home or no one answers, Animal Control staff will leave a door hanger that provides information about Michigan’s requirement that owners purchase licenses for their dogs.

“We understand people may be frustrated with our canvassing,” Horton said. “But currently we have fewer than 6,000 dogs licensed in Lapeer County— which leaves a huge population of dogs that are not licensed.”

Donations helpful

Lapeer County Animal Control continues to rely heavily on the generosity of community members to sustain and improve upon existing services.

“In 2020, we received $8,645 in monetary donations,” Horton said, “along with an abundance of dog food, flea and tick preventive products and other animal care items donated to us. We have been very fortunate in that we have not had to buy dog or cat food during the past two years.”

Lapeer County Animal Control is located at 2396 W. Genesee St. in Lapeer, MI 48446.

For further information or to make a donation, call the office at 810-667-0236.