Local leaders weigh in on "Who's watching the animals?"

By: Ryan Famuliner Email
By: Ryan Famuliner Email

We've received an incredible amount of feedback from the community following our investigation, "Who’s watching the animals?" that aired earlier this week.

We’ve had more than 400 comments on our website, and numerous calls and emails about the conditions at the St. Joseph County Humane Society.

We decided to find out what those who fund the humane society think.

The city of Mishawaka and St. Joseph County contract with the St. Joseph Humane Society for animal control services.

Both say they've received some calls from the public this week from people with concerns about the humane society: which holds more than 500 animals in a facility built for about 300.

Both say they're keeping a close eye on the situation.

The county has heard complaints about the humane society before, but never really had much authority.

“Based on that, this year’s contract contains an inspection provisions that we've not had in the past, that gives us the opportunity to review operations out there,” said St. Joseph County Commissioner Mark Dobson.

He says ultimately, if what they found wasn't up to their standards, that could lead to a breach of contract.

“That's the extreme. I mean what we'd rather do is be working with the agency to figure out how are they going to get around this. What are some interim solutions, interim steps, and what can we do to be of assistance? We don’t want to go in and throw the hammer, that doesn’t help anybody, really,” Dobson said.

Dobson says it's clear something needs to change.

“I think animal lovers and even people that are ambivalent probably agree what we've got to see from the humane society now is a sustainability plan,” Dobson said.

The city of Mishawaka has also taken tours of the facility in the past after hearing complaints, and sat down with the board to resolve the issues.

“I think that they’re like every service provider: nobody's perfect. I think they do the best that they can with he resources they have available to them,” said Mishawaka Mayor Jeff Rea.

“They're also taking care of those that nobody chooses to take care of; the stray, the abandoned. It certainly is a challenge,” Rea said.

Rea says in the past, they probably haven’t received more complaints about the humane society than about any other service in the area.

Ultimately, as the director of the humane society says, the public has a huge role in the issue.

“I think all of us can look at, how am I interacting with the humane society? If we have the desire to get a pet, lets go adopt a pet. Have we spayed or neutered or dog our cat? I think it’s a big wake up call for the community,” Dobson said.

We've also spoken with many humane society board members since our stories aired, who didn't want to comment on camera.

They're looking at a lot of solutions to these problems, and hope positive can come out of the dialogue that's been opened up about the humane society.

The board ultimately decides how the facility is run, and it supports the no-kill policy for adoptable animals; although they point out that doesn't mean they don't euthanize. They do, often diseased, injured, feral, and bad-tempered animals need to be put down.

They'd also like to see us compare their situation to humane societies closer to their size or larger, like Fort Wayne or Indianapolis.

We plan to do that in the coming weeks.


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