South Bend Animal Control embarks on new direction after problems in the past

It's no secret South Bend Animal Care and Control has had its fair share of problems. That includes employee firings, high euthanasia rates to broken relationships within the community.

However this weekend the shelter hopes to put those problems in the past and make a fresh start.

There will be an open house from 10 a.m. to noon at the shelter with tours and a chance to meet the shelter’s new manager, Matt Harmon. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and area veterans will also raise a new flag outside of the shelter as a symbolic gesture of new hope and faith.

On July 8th Harmon was hired by the city with the ultimate goal of lowering the euthanasia rate. He admits it’s not an easy task and will take time with lots of help.

But so far this year it’s been reduced by eight percent for cats and dogs.
In 2012, 64 percent of companion animals at the shelter were euthanized. So far in 2013, 56 percent have been euthanized.
Harmon says adopting dogs isn’t as difficult as cats. “We have so many fantastic cats that need homes and we want to get them out there and that's going to be a major, major step in the right direction,” he says.

The shelter is flooded with kittens but not enough volunteers.

“We absolutely need volunteers and we need help from the community,” responds Harmon. “We need assistance as far as all hands on deck and that's for everyone here at the shelter and the community as well.”

Finding more volunteers and lowering the euthanasia rates are among many other hurdles he faces.

“The euthanasia rates are a big problem,” he says. “It's a problem people in the community really want and need to see improved.”

Right now the shelter’s own volunteer group, CARE, sends out a mass email with pictures of adoptable dogs to rescue groups. Common Council Member Valerie Schey has been the long time organizer behind CARE. She sends out pictures and descriptions of dogs with email blasts to area rescue groups.

However Harmon says more can be done to reach out to the community.

Overall people simply don't know about a shelter the city fought for years to build. “The public has not seen an eagerness to improve what we're doing here at the shelter in the past,” he says.

Harmon has lofty goals ahead but with only a staff of nine and not all of them are full time, it's an uphill battle.

“It's a big project but it's absolutely doable,” he says.

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