June 20, 2008
Complaint filed against Gratiot animal shelter
By GREG NELSON
Sun Staff Writer
An animal rights activist has filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Agriculture alleging the Gratiot County Animal Shelter has been violating state and federal regulations.
Animal Control officials, however, say there is nothing to the allegations and the department is complying with all laws.
Justine DePalma, founder of Michigan Animal News and editor of its Web site, claims the county's animal shelter has been releasing strays to an animal medical research dealer without keeping them for the mandatory time and using illegal methods of euthanasia.
She has been putting information on all of the state's animal shelters online since November.
"When I see something odd I start doing a little investigation," DePalma said. "I start looking into it."
The freelance journalist from Richmond said she has been involved with various animal rights and environmental groups before launching her own organization.
In a story for her Web site, www.michanimalsnews.com , DePalma wrote that, "The average citizen would be hard pressed to imagine the horrors of the killing that takes place at Gratiot County Animal Control. The shelter uses the carbon dioxide barrel to kill homeless pets."
In a telephone interview, DePalma also said the shelter was violating federal law by not holding stray animals "five business days" before euthanizing them or selling them to a animal research agency.
"The shelter is only open three days a week, Tuesday through Thursday," she said. "But if they get an animal on Thursday it goes to the researcher the following Tuesday. That's not five business days."
Animal Control Director Dawn Little refuted DePalma's claims.
"I spent 10 minutes on the telephone with her Tuesday and it resulted in an investigation," Little said. "I don't know what the problem is.
"No one from (her organization) has been out here. We haven't gotten any complaints. I'm just waiting to see what this is all about."
The law states that shelters must keep stray animals with a collar or identification tags seven days and all others four days, she explained.
"We hold most all strays for seven days or longer," Little said.
Officers go out of their way in attempting to contact the owners if the animal has identification, she added
"First we take them home if we can," Little said. "If no one is home we tape a card to the door then call them on the phone later. As a last resort we send letters and hold the animal for 10 days or longer.
"We do the best we can. We are doing better than we have to."
Little claims that organization's like DePalmas simply don't want animals to be used for medical research.
She expects the MDA to check out the complaint but Little isn't worried.
"The MDA contacts us monthly," she said. "Dogs that go to research we do trace backs for them. We keep good records out here."
In addition, the use of carbon dioxide is a legal method of euthanizing animals, Little said.
In DePalma's article she stated that more than 20 percent of the shelter's animals go to a research dealer.
Little said that's not true.
"We have about 9.9 percent go for medical research," Little said. "It's not that many animals."
About 7 percent of the shelter's animals are adopted. Only those that aren't claimed by their owners or adopted are euthanized or go for medical research after being held for the required time, she added.
"I think we go above and beyond what we need to do," Little said. "If owners would keep their animals confined we wouldn't have to be here."
ITHACA -- An animal rights activist has filed a complaint claiming the
Gratiot County Animal Shelter is selling animals for medical research at a rate
that exceeds its adoptions.