Battling Animal Abandonment in Rock Springs

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ROCK SPRINGS — Rock Springs City Council held it’s regular meeting earlier this week which unanimously passed amended ordinance 2019-08. The proposed changes to entitled ordinance, “Human Control and Regulation of Animals,” now defines what “abandon” means and makes the crime punishable by a $750 fine and/or six months of jail time.

As stated in the ordinance, abandon is now defined as, “To leave an animal to its own devices without support or provision for shelter, food and medical care.”

Rock Springs Mayor, Tim Kaumo, said that the refined ordinance, “has been a long time coming.”

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“It’s not okay to abandon animals,” Kaumo said. “The vast majority of animals we find at the shelter are due to irresponsible animal owners. Animals are important to this entire community. Take care of them and don’t leave them to somebody else.”

A Step in the Right Direction

According to the Rock Springs Animal Control, the shelter saw a total of 1,310 animals in 2018. Only 351 of those animals were claimed by their owners. The remaining 959 were unclaimed, or in the eyes of Rock Springs Animal Control Supervisor Mike Kiggins, “abandoned.”

Kiggins, who has worked for Rock Springs Animal Control for over 30 years, said that throughout the years the number of abandoned animals has dropped in the city.

“When I was first hired on we used to bring in 2,500 to 3,000 animals. The number of animals coming in here has declined,” Kiggins said.

Several programs that have been introduced throughout the years directly correlate with the decline in animal abandonment. While the number of abandoned animals is still high, programs such as the spay/neuter program has helped cut down the number of unwanted puppies and kittens. Kiggins also pointed out that the increase in fines and public education efforts have also played a role in decrease of abandoned animals.

Ordinance 2019-08 is only another step in the right direction for the battle against abandoned animals as it creates more public accountability when it comes to their pets.

Microchip Magic

One possibility to help the continuous efforts of eliminating abandonment is the use of available technology. Microchips that can be injected into an animal have a definitive way to identify an animal’s owner.

“We are in the process of looking at a way to make it mandatory to get a microchip,” Kiggins said. “Right now a lot of people already get the microchip.”

Currently microchips are available at various veterinarian clinics around town. Fear of losing a furry friend makes microchips a guaranteed strategy to identify the owner of a dog. After the injection, a number is registered with the dog and the owner. The chip can be scanned which will identify both the dog and owner.

In terms of cost, the average microchip will run an owner around $40. Kiggins mentioned that if they do implement the mandatory microchip idea, it wouldn’t cost much more in comparison to the current licensing program.

While the public wouldn’t necessarily be able to provide the information needed to identify an animal without the metal tags, Kiggins said that he would, “have a one-hundred percent identification of who that animal is and where they belong.”

How You Can Help

With a relatively small staff, the public plays an important role of being the eyes and the ears for Kiggins and his team.

“Most of the time the only way we find out about it is by people calling in,” Kiggins said. “Without people calling us in, we won’t know.”

There are couple signs that you can be aware of in your neighborhood:

  • If you notice the behavior of an animal suddenly changes, such as sudden, continuous barking.
  • If an animal starts coming to your door for food.
  • Another sign to look for is the absence of your neighbors. If they are away for an extended amount of time and you know that they have animals, there might be an issue.

Kiggins suggests that if you have any suspicions that you should call the Rock Springs Animal Control and they will attempt to make contact. You can reach the office at 307-352-1455.