Leader Blues

Friday, June 20, 2008

TOP STORY > >Dead pets get burial as burning is stopped

Leader staff writer

The incinerator that Cabot used for nine years to dispose of dead dogs and cats from animal control is up for auction at www.GovDeals.com with a starting price of $2,000. The auction ends Sunday, and at press time there were no bidders.

Under a new head of animal control, that department has made more than a few changes since the beginning of April. The entire staff is new; the every-other-month, discount-priced spay and neuter clinic has been stopped, but the shelter is now open for a few hours the last Saturday of the month to try to adopt more unwanted animals. And instead of being cremated at a cost of $400 to $700 a month, dead animals are now taken to Two Pines, the landfill in Jacksonville where they are buried at a cost of $60 a ton.

Depending upon your point of view, the changes could be good or bad. Jason Ellerbee, the head of Cabot Animal Control for two and a half months said it’s just the way things are now.

“It’s just change,” Ellerbee said Friday. “There’s somebody new with a new way of doing things.”

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams wanted to stop using the incinerator a year ago after he learned how much it cost to operate and that the city wasn’t the only one using it. For a time, Ward used it free of charge and so did the Lonoke County Humane Society.

But it remained in use until after Sandra Graham, the former head of animal control who opposed taking the dead animals to the landfill, was asked to resign. When she left, so did the other two women who worked there.

The last big, spay and neuter clinic at the animal shelter was in May. Ellerbee said employees had to volunteer their time for the clinic which often lasted until 8 p.m. They also had to provide food for other volunteers and they had to keep answering calls while trying to assist with the clinic.

“It was a logistical nightmare,” he said.

About 120 animals were spayed or neutered at a reduced cost every time the clinic was held.

Since the clinic was held every other month, the average number of pets spayed or neutered was 60 a month.

Now, reduced-cost spaying and neutering provided by High Hopes Veterinary Clinic is limited to 10 per month on a first-come, first-served basis.

Ellerbee said there are no restrictions for the service except that only Cabot residents are eligible. There were no residency restrictions before.

Ellerbee said once the decision was made to discontinue the spay and neuter clinic, local veterinarians were asked if they would like to fill the void. Only High Hopes Veterinary Clinic responded.

Jerrel Maxwell, the city’s head of public works and Ellerbee’s supervisor, said the city got a permit to take the dead animals to the landfill because cremating them cost too much.

“It got very expensive for us for a while,” Maxwell said. “We were having to fire that thing up far too many times for the number of animals we put down (about 1,000 a year).”

Ellerbee said he takes dead animals to the landfill once a month. Since $60 a ton is the minimum charge, the city bought a larger freezer to store the bodies, and a small dump truck is used to haul them.