Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hobart Humane Society Board Members received a wake-up call this week








Portage OKs contract with new Porter animal shelter
Chicago Tribune
May 23, 2017
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-portage-animal-shelter-st-0524-20170523-story.html

The city officially jumped on board with the new Porter County Animal Control shelter when the Board of Works signed a contract with the shelter the same day county officials cut the ribbon on the new facility.

After this month, Portage animal control will take its animals to the new county site, instead of taking them to the Humane Society of Hobart. The city will pay the county $3,000 a month to receive the animals through August 2018, said Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham.

"This is a long time coming," Stidham said. "It's an amazing new facility, and it'll be great for our animals."

"At least now, we can keep our money in the county," added Board of Works Member Ron Necco.

Portage, the largest municipality in Porter County, had been the most significant holdout on the new county shelter, instead paying $2,300 to $2,400 a month to the Hobart shelter.

The monthly payments to the county site may be more, but it could change when county officials revisit their contracts with municipalities next year, Stidham said. If Portage is taking fewer animals, the city should end up paying less per month, he said.

The city also has been on the hook for Good Samaritan citizens who pick up stray animals and deliver them to the Humane Society, which then bills the city for Portage residents who took animals there, said Ted Uzelac, assistant police chief and a former City Council member.

Officials have been trying to put a leash on the behavior of pet owners as much as on the animals themselves for about the past year, Uzelac said. That has meant getting "proactive" on issuing citations to pet owners who do not keep adequate control of their animals, he said.

Portage has one full-time animal control officer and two part-time officers, keeping police officers free to patrol city streets, Uzelac said.










Portage, Porter County near agreement on animal shelter
May 12, 2017
Post-Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-porter-animal-shelter-st-0513-20170512-story.html

Portage officials and the Porter County Board of Commissioners are on the cusp of signing an agreement that would bring animals from the city of Portage to the new county animal shelter instead of the Hobart Humane Society, officials said.

Humane Society officials have long said that what was supposed to be a temporary agreement to house animals collected by Portage's animal control and dropped off by its residents had stretched on for years, and they would no longer take the animals once the new shelter opened.

Portage is the only city in Porter County that doesn't take its animals to the county shelter, and officials there and with the county have been negotiating an agreement for several months.

"I think it's a win-win, and I think it's really great for the animals," said Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, adding that the new shelter, slated to open in the coming weeks, has the capacity for Portage's cats and dogs. "This has been our hope all along, and I'll be very happy when the ink is on the contract."

Officials said that under the terms of the contract, Portage will pay the county $36,000 for one year. The contract does not provide animal control services, which the city will continue to provide on its own.

The Portage Board of Works will receive the contract for approval at the May 23 meeting; the contract will then go to the county commissioners to be signed.

"We're not going to do their animal control, so obviously they're not going to pay for that," said county attorney Scott McClure.

The city's fee was determined by using a formula based on the number of animals brought into the facility.

"They got treated like everybody else," McClure said.

All of the county's contracts for the service expire in August 2018 and will be renegotiated next year to update the number of animals from each community, he said.

Portage pays about $24,000 a year to the Humane Society, said Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham, and, depending on the season, brings in 20 to 40 animals.

"We're very excited to be part of the new shelter," he said.

The new shelter, on Indiana 49 between the sheriff's department and the Expo Center, will replace the outdated facility at 2056 Heavilin Road. It will be 14,000 square feet and have the capacity for 120 dogs and 120 cats. The $3.25 million shelter is being funded with $2.25 million in proceeds from the sale of the county hospital and a $1 million private donation from Jacki Stutzman, Blaney's aunt.

Portage will keep its own animal control officers instead of relying on the county for that service, said Mayor James Snyder, with the potential to expand the service to the north part of the county under a future partnership.

"We've always wanted to keep the animal control. It's permanent, and it's very difficult for the county to cover us as well, and it's a public safety issue as well," he said. "I think the county and the city want to make the county better overall."

The Humane Society has been accepting Portage's animals for about 12 years, said Brenda Slavik, the facility's director. The shelter also accepts animals from Lake Station and Hobart under contract, as well as drop-offs from other communities, and has the capacity for 150 cats and dogs.

The switch will be a financial loss to the Humane Society, but that wasn't unexpected, and Slavik said the shelter will up its fundraising and find other ways to make up the lost income.

Though she expects some Portage residents will continue to bring their animals there out of convenience, Slavik said the additional space will mean the Humane Society can take in more animals.

"It'll be a lot more owners' animals we can take in, that have to surrender them," she said. "Otherwise they'll end up on the street."











Animal shelter construction ahead of schedule 
June 1 opening slated for $3.25 million facility 
Post-Tribune (IN) 
March 9, 2017
From the inside, the new Porter County Animal Shelter appears nearly complete. The walls are painted, the flooring is done, and late last week a few workers cleaned windows and took care of other small tasks.

Work on the shelter, scheduled to open June 1 on Indiana 49 between the Porter County Sheriff's Department and the Expo Center, is two weeks ahead of schedule.

"It looks like it's done but it's going to be a couple of months. It's a difficult stage to be patient," said Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South.

Construction on the new shelter started in late August.

After years of discussion and consideration of an assortment of locations, county officials decided on county-owned land between the sheriff's department and the Expo Center for a shelter to replace the one at 2056 Heavilin Road, which they have said is too small and outdated.

At $3.25 million, the new shelter is being paid for with $2.25 million in proceeds from the sale of the county hospital and a $1 million private donation by Jacki Stutzman, Blaney's aunt.

The new shelter, at 16,000 square feet, will have the capacity for 120 dogs and 120 cats.

"The construction of the building is more or less complete," shelter director Toni Bianchi said before giving a tour of the new building, which includes a surgery center, separate areas for large and small dogs, and cat rooms, where cats will be able to live without being confined to cages.

The move-in date may be sooner than originally scheduled, she said, but that's out of her hands.

"I'm waiting on vendors, kennels, that kind of thing. There's not much we can do about that," she said. Those items were ordered with a June 1 deadline, and she's asked vendors to speed things along.

Even without the kennels, the shelter staff can move items out of storage and into the new building and take on other related tasks until they can move the animals, Bianchi said.

She plans to close the old shelter for a long weekend to facilitate moving the animals. While the dogs will be getting new kennels, the cats will use the same cages because they are only a few years old.

"We'll be closed for a few days and at that point people will just have to understand," she said.

Animal Control officers and volunteers will help transport the animals, Bianchi said. The shelter has about 30 cats and 30 dogs.

"Our population right now is fairly low. We've been doing fairly well with adoptions lately, so that's good," she said. A mild winter will mean an even greater influx of kittens than usual, but the shelter will have more room for them.

A sophisticated air exchange system will keep disease down, Blaney said, and the improved environment will reduce stress on the animals. Both improvements will make them more adoptable.

"It's just going to be phenomenal," Blaney said.

County officials continue to negotiate with the city of Portage about bringing its animals to the new shelter instead of the Hobart Humane Society, Blaney said. Portage is the only municipality in the county that doesn't use the shelter.

The fate of the old shelter already has been determined.

"We will be tearing it down as soon as possible," Blaney said.










Shelter improves on no-kill rate for '16
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
December 12, 2016
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-porter-animal-shelter-st-1213-20161212-story.html

The Porter County Animal Shelter's euthanization rate dropped this year, as did its number of intakes because of revised procedures meant to keep animals healthier and better match families with prospective pets.

That's according to statistics released Monday by shelter director Toni Bianchi that showed the shelter's euthanization rate dropped from about 7 percent to just over 4 percent between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 of this year.

Shelters must maintain a euthanization rate below 10 percent to be considered no-kill facilities.

"Medically, we have better protocols in place," Bianchi said, including immediately vaccinating dogs on intake and placing them in quarantine for up to a week, then keeping them in isolation if they're sick.

The shelter staff also is working more with the animals, particularly dogs, because working breeds, such as German shepherds and Doberman pinschers don't do as well in kennels, and offering dogs play groups so they can socialize with other dogs, which reduces aggression, officials said.

"We're getting the animals more enriched so it keeps them from getting kennel frustration," she said. "It does make them more adoptable because we're working with them more."

Handling medical and behavioral issues proactively is helping keep the euthanization rate down, she added.

The shelter took in 650 animals between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, an almost 30 percent reduction for the same period last number. That included a drop in the number of strays coming to the shelter, but also decreases in owner surrenders, adoption returns and seized animals.

The shelter tightened its adoption procedures so prospective pets and owners are a better match, which reduces the number of animals returned to the shelter, Bianchi said.

"We're trying to make sure the animal is going to the right home," she said.

Shelter staff also talks to pet owners before they relinquish an animal to talk about strategies for keeping the pet at home, she said.

The number of strays has dropped with the establishment of a "Lost and Found Pets in Porter County" Facebook page, which matches animals found by the public with their owners. The shelter also maintains a lost and found log that can be accessed by animal control officers, who can match a reported stray animal with an owner, according to a news release.

The shelter also has improved its volunteer recruitment and training, and changed its spay/neuter police so animals are spayed or neutered before they can be taken home. Previously, new owners had 90 days to get their new pet altered.

This also was the first time in many years that there were no significant disease outbreaks in the shelter, Bianchi said, and veterinary bills also have dropped by 47 percent. A total of $142,000 was spent on veterinary care in 2015; that figure will be about $75,000 this year.

Bianchi said that the achievements by the shelter staff have been incredible and the shelter has been able to move from constantly being over-capacity to staying within capacity limits.

"We have already begun planning additional program enhancements that can only be implemented when we move to the new shelter building," she said of the June 1 planned move to a new, larger shelter on Indiana 49 between the sheriff's department and the Expo Center.

County officials have long said the existing shelter, at 2056 Heavilin Road, was too small and outdated to handle the number of animals there.

"The Board of Commissioners couldn't be more proud of the turnaround that Toni and the entire shelter staff have accomplished so far this year in what we all know to be very challenging conditions at the current shelter building," said Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, in the news release.










Porter County Animal Shelter reports improvement
By Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345
Dec 12, 2016
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/porter-county-animal-shelter-reports-improvement/article_d83137e8-6aec-5543-a547-e3d1954f8101.html


VALPARAISO — The adoption rate at the Porter County Animal Shelter was down slightly during the first three quarters of this year over 2015.

But officials there say the reduction is the result of a more effective adoption policy that has reduced the number of animal returns.

The shelter also reported having to euthanize fewer animals this year over last.

A total of 27 animals were euthanized during the first three quarters of this year — 26 for medical reasons and one for aggression, according to the shelter. This compares to 64 animals euthanized during the same period last year.

The percentage of animals euthanized this year was 4.29 percent, which falls well below 10 percent, allowing the shelter to retain its "no kill" status, according to officials there.

The number of strays at the shelter is down, according to officials. The reduction is attributed to the Lost and Found Pets in Porter County Facebook page and a log of stray animals that is remotely accessible by animal control officers.

"I believe that the improvements in our animal intakes are the direct result of programs and procedures that we have implemented at the shelter," said Director Toni Bianchi.

"It is clear that we are making very positive progress in better managing our shelter population," she said.










New Porter County shelter set to open in June
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
December 02, 2016 - 5:46PM



With exterior walls up, the interior of the new Porter County Animal Shelter is getting its due.

Skylights for more natural light for animals and people. A separate area for small-breed dogs. An area for glassed-in displays in the entranceway for puppies and kittens up for adoption. Office space for employees. A surgical area for spay/neuter procedures. And so much more.

After years of discussion and consideration of an assortment of different locations, county officials decided on county-owned land between the sheriff's department and the Expo Center for a shelter to replace the one at 2056 Heavilin Road, which they have long said is too small and outdated.

"I think it's going to be really nice," said Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, who has helped shepherd the project. "On top of being three times bigger, it's going to be many more times healthier for both the people and the animals."

A Friday tour of the new building, led by Marc Bozetarnik, a construction superintendent with Larson-Danielson Construction, showed what the facility will have to offer.

Construction began in August and much the work should be complete by mid-March, he said, which will give shelter officials time to put in place the kennels and other equipment they need to open the shelter by June 1.

At $3.25 million, the shelter is being paid for with $2.25 million in proceeds from the sale of the county hospital and a $1 million private donation by Jacki Stutzman, Blaney's aunt.

The new shelter, at 16,000 square feet, will have the capacity for 120 dogs and 120 cats.

"We think it's state of the art," Bozetarnik said, adding the facility is Larson-Danielson's design and the firm was awarded the contract by commissioners through a design/build process.

The building will feature a sophisticated air exchange system, bringing fresh air into the building every 10 minutes to control odors and limit disease, he said, adding it's the facility's most expensive feature.

"You're looking at the design and there are certain features in this building that are very unusual and cater to the pets, disease control and things you don't think about," he said, adding this is the first animal shelter he's worked on.

Bozetarnik has visited the current shelter and said a new one is "long overdue."

"It's just been really rough for them to do what they need to do there," he said.

The amenities, Blaney said, will make for happier animals and when animals are stressed less, they are less likely to be ill. That, in turn, will make them more adoptable.

"This will be so much better," she said. "It's going to be everything we were hoping it would be and so much more."










Gallery: New Porter County Animal Shelter
December 01, 2016
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/new-porter-county-animal-shelter-taking-shape/article_913258a6-f601-5af4-9f1f-9b285cbe4979.html
























New Porter County animal shelter taking shape
By Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345
Dec 1, 2016
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/new-porter-county-animal-shelter-taking-shape/article_913258a6-f601-5af4-9f1f-9b285cbe4979.html


WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — The basic shell of the new county animal shelter is in place and work on the interior of the building is still in the early stages.

But Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, was thrilled Thursday by what she saw.

"We can't get in here soon enough," she said.

Blaney and her aunt, Jacki Stutzman, who donated $1 million toward the $3.25 million project, visited the site Thursday, which is located just northwest of the Porter County Expo Center along Ind. 49.

"This is magnificent," Stutzman said as she walked into the largest of the rooms, which will soon house many of the building's 120 dog kennels.

The new shelter is 14,000 square feet, as compared to 4,000 square feet at the current facility that was built in the early 1980s along Ind. 2, south of U.S. 30. The new maximum capacity for dogs rises from 50 to 120, and from 80 to 120 for cats.

"Just like the old one," Blaney joked upon seeing the large kennel area.

The new facility is slated to open June 1, she said.

David Merkel, who is serving as project manager for the design builder, Larson-Danielson Construction, said the 10 kennels in the small-breed dog area will each have access to outside runs.

The dogs kept in the larger main kennel area will be escorted out to the runs, he said.

Merkel stopped along the tour to point out an indoor area lined with several windows to give cats exposure to the outside.

The animal areas of the building will feature a special system to change out the interior air 10 times per hour, he said.

Merkel said his crew is shooting to be done March 23, at which time the county will take over with its work on the building.

The county is funding the project through proceeds from the 2007 sale of the former county hospital, which required a unanimous vote by the three county commissioners and seven members of the County Council.










New shelter: 'The animals deserve this'
Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345  
Sep 9, 2016 






WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said her children asked her why there was a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for the new animal shelter when work is already underway at the site.

The answer became clear as one speaker after another voiced excitement about the accomplishment and what it means for the future of the county.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Blaney’s aunt, Jacki Stutzman, who donated $1 million toward the $3.25 million project located along Ind. 49, just northwest of the Porter County Expo Center.

Stutzman said while volunteering at the current shelter, she saw all that the staff has been able to accomplish at that aging site.

“They deserve this,” she said of the new building. “The animals deserve this. Porter County deserves this.”

The new shelter will be 14,000 square feet, as compared to 4,000 square feet at the current facility that was built in the early 1980s along Ind. 2, south of U.S. 30, according to a fact sheet provided during Friday’s groundbreaking. The new maximum capacity for dogs rises from 50 to 120, and from 80 to 120 for cats.

The new building, slated to be open next year, also will feature a spay/neuter clinic, two examination rooms and a grooming area.

Shelter Director Toni Bianchi said the new building will provide greater enrichment opportunities for the animals and result in more adoptions.

“I just can’t thank you all enough,” she said to the group that included various county officials, shelter and rescue staff, and contractors linked to the project.

County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said the groundbreaking is also significant in that it represents a wider effort to update other county buildings.

“Your buildings are really a perception of who you are,” said Good, who works in the hotel business.

The county is funding the project through proceeds from the 2007 sale of the former county hospital, which required a unanimous vote by the three county commissioners and seven members of the County Council.

County Council President Dan Whitten, D-at-large, lauded the cooperation necessary for the vote, saying that each official has a different background and likely different priorities.

“This animal shelter was clearly a priority of all 10,” he said.










Lack of dog impound facility concerns Portage residents
Joyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222  
Sep 7, 2016 
NWI Times


PORTAGE — Debra Hric told the City Council recently that she no longer feels safe in the city.

Hric, who lives in Harbor Oaks subdivision, said she wasn’t satisfied with the city’s actions recently after a neighborhood dog mauled her dog to death.

“It’s not about revenge, it is about safety,” she said.

But, said City Attorney Gregg Sobkowski, the city’s hands are tied.

“It is a practical issue. We don’t have a place to impound animals,” Sobkowski said.

Hric’s dog, Dolly, was killed the night of Aug. 30 when, she said, a neighborhood pit bull came out of nowhere, grabbed her 12-pound Shih Tzu, which was on a leash, and killed it.

The incident was reported to Portage police and animal control. The owner of the dog was ordered to quarantine his animal until the city could hold a hearing under its dangerous dog ordinance on Oct. 3.

“I feel it is a safety issue,” said Hric, who was joined by a half-dozen neighborhood residents. “You have quarantined the dog with the owner. What’s to say he’s not going to get loose again?”

Police Chief Troy Williams said it isn’t just Hric’s case. A police officer was recently injured while on a call, he said, and police were not able to take that dog.

Councilwoman Liz Modesto told Hric that they can’t take the dog to Hobart Humane Society because officials there only will hold the animal for three days. They also can’t take it to the Porter County Animal Shelter because the city doesn’t have a contract with the county agency to take animals.

Council President Mark Oprisko said the city is presently negotiating with the county, which is building a new facility on Ind. 49. If a deal is struck, they would be able to take animals there in the future.

Council members said they would also review the dangerous dog ordinance to see if there are any changes that can be made to strengthen the ordinance.

In the meantime, Williams said he would ask for extra patrol in the Harbor Oaks area by officers.










Porter County approves $2.25 million for new animal shelter 
Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345
Jun 28, 2016
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/porter/porter-county-approves-million-for-new-animal-shelter/article_bec1ed04-996b-5d1a-8746-1a198a2ac093.html



VALPARAISO — The Porter County Council approved $2.25 million Tuesday night for a new animal shelter in what amounted to the deepest dip yet into the principal from the 2007 sale of the county hospital.

Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, called the move a "tremendous step forward for the county" and the first of many capital projects that will be made possible by the investment of the hospital proceeds.

"I think this county is going to be very proud," he said.

The money, in addition to a $1 million donation from Valparaiso resident Jacki Stutzman, will be used to replace the county's undersized and aging shelter with a new facility along Ind. 49 near the Porter County Expo Center.

The plans for the new building, as presented last month before some tweaking, call for a 14,500-square-foot building.

"This is about fixing what's broke," said Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st.

The council's action Tuesday night generated a round of applause from a group of shelter employees and supporters.

The Porter County Board of Commissioners approved the $2.25 million for the new shelter a couple of weeks ago. Unanimous approval from both the council and commissioners is necessary before dipping into the principal from the hospital sale proceeds.

Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said the new facility will pave the way for new revenue from dog adoptions.

It will also attract new volunteers and additional donors, he said.

"I think looking forward there will be a lot of tremendous opportunities," Good said.

Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, who is Stutzman's niece, said, "This is what can be done when we all put aside our differences and find common ground for the good of the community."










Commissioners seek $2.25 million in hospital funds for animal shelter
Chesterton Tribune
By JEFF SCHULTZ
June 15, 2016
http://chestertontribune.com/Porter%20County/commissioners_seek_2_25_million.htm

The job of building the new Porter County Animal Shelter has been officially given to Larson-Danielson Construction.

The Porter County Commissioners voted 3-0 Tuesday to award the contract to the LaPorte-based firm with two contingencies -- that County Attorney Scott McClure has final review of the contract and that the County Council allocate the funds needed for construction.

The Commissioners then voted unanimously to ask the County Council to tap into $2,250,000 of the $10 million in proceeds from the Porter Memorial Hospital sale principal set aside for capital projects.

That is not including the $1 million donation from Valparaiso resident and Shelter benefactor Jacki Stutzman. Her donation will allow additional amenities such as an area where dogs and cats could be spayed or neutered to be built.

Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, told the Chesterton Tribune he believes the final cost could be close to $2.5 million, but it’s hard to say at this point.

“We’re basically getting a $3 million building for $2 million is how I see it (with the donation),” Good said after the meeting.

The Commissioners talked of putting Stutzman’s donation in a sub-fund instead of being mixed in with the Shelter’s regular donation fund.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, suggested part of the Shelter be named for Stutzman in appreciation for her generosity. Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, who is Stutzman’s niece, said she “did not ask for that” but “she would appreciate it very much.”

The County Council will meet on Tuesday, June 28, to decide whether to support the $2.25 million amount. Under home rule, unanimous votes from both the Commissioners and the Council are required to spend any of the hospital principal.

The $10 million for capital projects represents the amount of hospital money that was not invested into a foundation endowment fund created by the County.

In a related matter, the Commissioners also voted 3-0 to accept a bid of $45,665 from Olson Construction to build a new offsite access road for the Shelter, which was about $10,000 less than a bid submitted by a second firm, Walsh & Kelly.

McClure said he is in discussions with the Indiana Department of Transportation on getting a right-of-way permit for the road extension and mentioned “they are willing to process it.” The Shelter will sit off of Ind. 49 near the County Expo Center and Fairgrounds on Division Rd.

Mike Jabo of DLZ Indiana said bids have also been collected to extend sewer and waterlines from the fairgrounds but advised to wait until July to select one so it will not interfere with the County Fair’s run.

Good said that the proper permitting will be acquired before construction officially begins. “We are holding ourselves to the same standards as everyone else,” he said.










Mayor: Shelter location not good for Portage 
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
June 02, 2016 - 6:57PM

Portage Mayor James Snyder questions the location of the new Porter County animal shelter among other concerns in a letter to members of the Porter County Council and Board of Commissioners.

In the letter, dated Wednesday, Snyder said the most important reason for Portage's dissatisfaction with the location on Indiana 49 near the Porter County Expo Center and Porter County Jail is that it will hinder adoptions.

"Adoption of these animals should be priority number one, and there are few who believe that the location near the county jail and the county fairgrounds is paramount in promoting good and frequent adoption options to families and these poor animals who need a home," Snyder wrote.

Portage is the only municipality in the county that does not use the county shelter. Portage has its own animal control officers and now takes its strays to the Humane Society in Hobart, a kill shelter.

Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, disagreed with Snyder about the Ind. 49 location.

"There's a lot of factors that go into picking the perfect spot and this is it, including saving taxpayer dollars," said Blaney, who also said she doesn't think the shelter's location will hinder adoptions.

"I can guarantee better adoption rates for all the animals in Porter County," she said.

County officials have already addressed many of Snyder's concerns, said Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large. He is meeting next week with Portage City Council President Mark Oprisko, D-at large, and County Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, whose district includes Portage, to discuss finances, the number of animals Portage would bring to the new shelter, and other matters.

"The mayor's letter is of no consequence to me," he said.

Snyder also said it would take an hour round-trip for his city's animal control officers to drop animals off at the shelter, incurring greater time and transportation costs.

The County Council discussed the new location with commissioners at their May 24 meeting. Portage City Councilwoman Sue Lynch, D-at large, who was at the meeting and served on a committees for the new shelter, said then that the location would not preclude the city from using the shelter.

County officials considered a number of different locations for a new shelter before deciding on the site on Ind. 49, which commissioners announced about a year and a half ago. Land at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, at Meridian Road and U.S. 6, was dropped as a potential location because the land was owned by the parks foundation and several people opposed using it for a shelter.

Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, said at the meeting that much of the county's growth is south of U.S. 30, a point he reiterated Wednesday and one that Snyder disputed in his letter.

"There is no perfect location because the demographics in Porter County change about every five years," Biggs said. "You look at a location that in most people's opinion is centrally located."

The land on Ind. 49 is owned by the county, which was one of the factors in deciding to put the shelter there, but Snyder said in his letter that county officials seemed focused on saving tax dollars rather than purchasing a more prominent property that could foster a higher rate of adoptions. He also mentioned the almost $160 million the county received from the sale of the county hospital, and a $1 million private donation toward the new shelter.

"The focus seems to rest on frugality as opposed to (the) reality of a good location and its users," Snyder wrote. "In this instance, the county's focus will potentially cost the taxpayers millions."

County government has to be frugal because it operates on a larger scale than its municipalities, Biggs said.

"I think our frugal approach is why we have dollars in the bank and I think taxpayers have backed our approach," Blaney said.

Portage officials have not yet signed a contract to join in on the new shelter, which is expected to open early next year. Construction should begin in the coming weeks.

County officials want to work with the city of Portage, Biggs said, and he thinks everyone would be better off concentrating on more important things.

"I respect what they're saying. I understand it but we made a decision we felt was in the best interest of all of Porter County."










Council points to growth in choice of animal shelter location
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
May 25. 2016







The Porter County Council is satisfied with the location of the new county animal shelter and is considering the growth of the county, a council member said Tuesday.

Noting complaints from the Portage administration that the location on Indiana 49 between the Expo Center and the sheriff's department is too far from that city, Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, wanted confirmation that the site was the best place for a new shelter.

"We're confident that there's no location closer to Portage that works?" Whitten said.

A site under previous consideration at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, at U.S. 6 and Meridian Road, was dropped because that land was owned by the county parks foundation, Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said.

Council attorney Scott McClure said the project is too far along at its current site to pull back.

Future growth in the county will be south, said Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st.

"Twenty years from now, all those cities south of (U.S.) 30 are going to be saying the same thing Portage is now," Biggs said.

Portage is the only city in the county that hasn't signed on to bring its animals to the new shelter and currently takes its animals to the Hobart Humane Society. Portage City Councilwoman Sue Lynch, D-at large, said the location would not preclude the city from bringing its animals there.

"This location seems pretty logical to me," Whitten said, adding it's not in a cornfield between Hebron and Kouts. "People do go to the fair and the Expo Center, and there is easy access."

The facility will have the capacity to expand but is large enough as it's being built to handle Portage's animals, officials said.

On Tuesday, Larson Danielson Construction Co. of LaPorte presented plans for a 14,500-square-foot concrete block building.

Good, who sat on one of the committees for the project, said the shelter would take up about 1.7 acres of the 5-acre parcel.

The county will need to come up with about $2.25 million for the project, said McClure. The facility is about $2.75 million and the county has received a $1 million donation from Jacki Stutzman of Valparaiso toward that cost, McClure said, but the final figure includes soft costs, such as sewer and water service and extending a frontage road along Ind. 49 to serve the facility.

The new shelter would have the capacity for 114 dogs and 96 cats. The current structure, at 2056 Heavilin Road, can hold 50 dogs and 80 cats, shelter director Toni Bianchi said.

County officials deem the new shelter a priority, Whitten said, and discussion of how to fund it will come at the council's next meeting, when council members will have a better handle on operating costs and whether Portage is joining in, which would help boost revenue.

"We don't have to build a facility for the municipalities. We're building a nice facility because we want to," Whitten said, adding it's up to the municipalities to decide whether to be included. "We want everybody included if they want to come."










Porter County Council pondering $2.25M request for new animal shelter
By Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345  
May 24, 2016 
NWI Times



VALPARAISO — The Porter County Council seemed generally supportive Tuesday night of plans for a new 14,500-square-foot animal shelter along Ind. 49 near the Porter County Expo Center.

But it will not be known until at least next month if the group will be willing to free up the $2.25 million needed for the building in addition to a $1 million private donation announced late last week.

There was already discussion Tuesday about reducing the size of the structure by doing away with an interior courtyard designed to give cats the opportunity to be outside for greater mental stimulation.

A question was also asked about the operational costs of a proposed system that will replace the interior air in the kennel areas every six minutes.

"I think it's great, it's long overdue," said Councilwoman Sylvia Graham, D-at large.

Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, said the proposal speaks volumes that, "This county is going to treat its animals with compassion."

The details of the project were presented by representatives of Larson Danielson Construction Co., which recently won out in the competition for the best overall proposal. The project design is now undergoing some tweaking to fit needs and the county's budget.

Porter County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, has said the hope is to fund the project from money generated by the 2007 sale of the county hospital.

Part of the funding equation will depend on whether Portage decides to join every other municipality in the county in paying to use the new shelter, said Council President Dan Whitten, D-at-large.

He said concern has been voiced that the proposed site is too far from Portage.

Good said the preferred location for the shelter is further north at Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Liberty Township, but no one from Portage came out to support the commissioners when they made an unsuccessful attempt to win approval for use of that location.

Sue Lynch, D-at large, who attended Tuesday's County Council meeting, said she did not believe the proposed location of the new shelter will preclude the city from using the site.

Portage currently takes its stray animals to the Hobart Humane Society.










Animal shelter benefactor offers $1 million to county
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
May 21, 2016 - 11:06AM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-porter-animal-gift-st-0522-20160521-story.html#nt=related-content

Four years after an anonymous community member offered a substantial donation toward the construction of a new Porter County Animal Shelter, she came forward Friday night to reveal both her identity and the amount of her donation.

Jacki Stutzman, aunt of Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, addressed the 200 or so people gathered for a disco-themed fundraiser at the Expo Center and offered $1 million for the project. The Porter County Commissioners Ball raised money to buy equipment for the new shelter.

"This is just thrilling to me, knowing the animals need a better place. I congratulate Porter County for doing this," said Stutzman, of Valparaiso.

The forward movement of the project, after commissioners considered an assortment of locations and explored a partnership with the rescue group Lakeshore PAWS that didn't come to fruition, prompted Stutzman to go public.

"It's going to happen, and I was always the anonymous donor while it was in the planning stage," she said. "We just thought the timing was right and I'm excited to do it. It's going to happen finally. This has always been a passion for me."

Stutzman is making "a huge impact on the quality of life" in the county, Blaney said, and is on or has been on a wide variety of community boards, including serving as current president of the Memorial Opera House Foundation.

The new shelter will be built on county-owned land along Indiana 49 between the sheriff's department and the Expo Center. The county's highway department razed an old house and outbuildings on the site earlier this month to make way for the building.

The donation, Blaney said, ensures that the new shelter will become a reality. She expects the remaining funds for the project to come from $10 million from the 2007 sale of the county hospital that was held back from investment in a foundation to be used for capital projects.

"We still have to go in front of the council and see if that's where it should come from," she said, adding that conversation would take place during Tuesday's County Council meeting.

Larson-Danielson Construction is the likely firm for the project, and their proposed design will cost around $2.7 million. Commissioners are expected to finalize the details of a contract with the firm at their June 14 meeting.

Stutzman is no stranger to the Porter County Animal Shelter.

She was involved at the facility in November 2011, when former shelter director Jon Thomas first took over, and saw the need for a new facility to replace the one at 2056 Heavilin Road. County officials have long said was outdated and too small to handle the number of animals that come through its doors.

For shelter director Toni Bianchi, the house coming down was the first step in making the shelter a reality, and the donation is the second step.

"Now it's full steam ahead," she said.










Construction company chosen for new animal shelter
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
May 17, 2016 - 4:33PM


The new Porter County Animal Shelter inched closer to reality Tuesday as the Board of Commissioners learned which of three design/build teams is closest to hitting the parameters outlined for the project.

In a dovetailing of scores for facility designs and proposed cost, Larson-Danielson Construction Co. of LaPorte offered the best option, said Stephen Kromkowski with DLZ.

Larson-Danielson scored in the middle in the design rankings done by a technical review committee and offered a proposed cost of about $2.7 million, the lowest of the three teams competing for the project. The other two teams are Core, Epoc, Millies and Abonmarche, and Gairup/M2Ke design.

"Everything did meet the criteria that was established," Kromkowski said.

The next step, he said, will be for Larson-Danielson to sit down with a shelter advisory committee and fine-tune the overall design.

"They're not changing the scope and they're not changing the design," Kromkowski said, adding it's more of an "overall refinement" of the plans.

By the commissioners' next meeting on June 14, Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said officials would have "a really good idea" of the cost of a new shelter.

County officials have long said that the current shelter, at 2056 Heavilin Road off of Indiana 2, was outdated and too small to handle the number of animals that come through its doors.

Demolition is complete on the old house on the county-owned land for the new shelter, on a five-acre parcel between the sheriff's department and the Expo Center on Indiana 49, said highway superintendent David James, as well as demolition of the outbuildings on the property.

Additionally, the commissioners and Surveyor Kevin Breitzke, serving as the county's storm water board, unanimously passed a resolution against Great Lakes Basin Transportation's plans for a 278-mile freight train line, which would start in Wisconsin and end in LaPorte County.

The proposed line, an $8 billion, privately funded project, would run through southern and eastern Porter County.

Several other boards in Lake and Porter counties have come out against the plan.










Porter County moves ahead to build animal shelter at Expo Center
Chesterton Tribune
By JEFF SCHULTZ
May 11, 2016
http://chestertontribune.com/Porter%20County/porter_county_moves_ahead_to_bui.htm

The Porter County Commissioners are inching closer and closer to having their plans in hand for the new County Animal Shelter as they opened bids and heard scores given to proposals at their meeting Tuesday.

Using the new design-build process created by state statute about three years ago, the County will be able to work with the firm it eventually chooses to get the plans finalized to what they want, said Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center.

The bids opened were $2,753,082 by Larson-Danielson Construction, $2,989,762 by Gariup Construction and M2Ke, and $3,095,883 by Core, Epoch, Millies and Abonmarche.

Good, who is the elected official on the three-member technical review committee for the design-build of the Shelter, said the estimates came in near what he expected.

The Commissioners have said they aim the cost of the Shelter to be $2 million or under, which is still possible, according to Good. The bids received are basically the estimated maximum costs.

Once the bid is awarded, presumably at the Commissioner’s next meeting on May 17, the technical review committee can negotiate changes to fit what the County can afford. “It takes a lot of fat off of the proposal,” Good said.

The two other members of the committee are builder Jim Dyer of Bergland Construction and engineer Kurt Schmiegel of DLZ Indiana.

As part of the process, the committee gave scores to proposals before seeing what the bids were. Stephen Kromkowski of DLZ Indiana announced that the scores were 307 for Gariup, 440 for Larson-Danielson and 460.33 for Core.

The scores were based on how well the plans “fulfill the program” envisioned by the County, Good said.

Both the scores and the bids will be considered in determining which of the three firms to go with.

“It takes both of them and combines them,” said County Attorney Scott McClure.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said that just because a firm received the highest scoring, the Commissioners can still pick another.

Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, informed the Chesterton Tribune that on Monday demolition of the two-story home and outbuildings took place at the new shelter site, located on a five-acre parcel northwest of the Expo Center and Fairgrounds on Ind. 49 near Division Rd.

As of now, no funds have been committed to the Shelter’s construction. The Commissioners and County Council have set aside $10 million of the sale proceeds from the County-owned Porter Memorial Hospital for capital projects.

Road money
The Commissioners, in other business, are dedicating the funds the County received from the state’s recent distribution of county income tax revenues for road infrastructure projects or purchase of highway equipment.

The Auditor’s Office announced last month that the County is receiving $1.775 million in Local Option Income Tax funds from Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 67.

The County will be participating in the state’s PASER road program where the state will provide a 50/50 match to local funds for roads.

Painting the fairgrounds
Also, the Commissioners approved the purchase of a new fire alarm at the Expo Center for $1,167, followed by approval of a $10,940 bid by MMWBL, Inc. for painting projects which will be shared equally by the Porter County Fair Board.

Expo Director Lori Daly said the fences along Division Rd. and Ind. 49 will be some of the structures receiving a new coat, as well as five of the barns and the 4-H Exhibit Hall.










Making way for a new county animal shelter
Bob Kasarda 
May 9, 2016 
NWI Times



WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, braced herself against the strong and chilly wind Monday morning so as not to miss another milestone in constructing a new county animal shelter.

“It’s so exciting,” she said while watching an old house destroyed near the the Porter County Expo Center to make way for groundbreaking on a new shelter in June. “It’s a long time coming.” A large excavator began tearing away sections of the two-story house and several nearby outbuildings are also slated for demolition.

The demolition occurred a day before the commissioners are scheduled to open up three competitive bids to construct the new building, according to Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center.

Those proposals will contain costs for the project, he said, but the final decision also will be based on a review of the companies ability to meet the county’s expectations, he said. That final selection is expected to be made by commissioners May 17.

Good predicted the project will cost the county between $2.5 million and $3million. The hope is to get the unanimous support needed from the commissioners and council to fund the project from money generated by the 2007 sale of the county hospital.

Blaney said it likely will be next spring before the facility is operational.

The new shelter will be accessed from the same light along Ind. 49 that is used by the sheriff’s department, Good said. The access road along the east side of the highway is going to be extended south to reach the site.

Shelter Director Toni Bianchi was happy to see the demolition under way Monday.

“It’s a step in the right direction for the animals in Porter County,” she said.

A new shelter not only will improve living conditions for the animals, but will attract more potential adopters, she said.











Home demolition makes way for animal shelter
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
May 09, 2016



With a loud crunch, a piece of heavy machinery took a bite out of a house Monday that will soon be the site of the new Porter County Animal Shelter.

Windows shattered and fell piece by piece into a growing pile of rubble, which also came to include insulation, drywall, a gold and orange rug and myriad other bits of the building on Indiana 49.

The Porter County Board of Commissioners and other county officials watched as the old house, on county-owned land between the sheriff's department and the Expo Center, came down, a sign that after several years, plans for a new shelter are moving forward.

'This is definitely happening and it's a huge step in the right direction for the animals of Porter County. I'm very excited," said shelter director Toni Bianchi. "We've been waiting for this for a while."

County officials have long said that the current shelter, at 2056 Heavilin Road off of Indiana 2, was outdated and too small to handle the number of animals that come through its doors. The shelter currently has 45 cats and 31 dogs but that number will increase as spring progresses, Bianchi said.

At their meeting Tuesday, commissioners are expected to open and reveal bids from the three teams involved in the design/build process for the shelter, with the hope of awarding a bid to one of them at their May 17 meeting, said Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, adding the house tear-down makes a new shelter "finally very tangible."

"It's just going to be a much better experience for the animals and the people when you walk in the door," she said, adding a new shelter will have more natural light, better ventilation, and sound and noise control. "I'm hoping it will attract more volunteers because this will be a better work environment."

Commissioner Jeff Good, R-North, expects the bids to come in around $2.5 million to $3 million for the new shelter.

He expects a June groundbreaking.










Design proposals shown for new animal shelter
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
April 18, 2016 - 2:14PM


Porter County officials got a peek at what could be the new animal shelter Monday with a look at the plans offered by three teams involved in the design-build process for the new facility.

Members of the Board of Commissioners and representatives from the animal shelter, animal control and the project's technical review committee heard presentations from Core, Epoc, Millies and Abonmarche; Gairup/M2Ke design; and Larson-Danielson Construction Company Inc. One of the three teams will be selected to take on the project.

The presentations weren't about cost but about the design of the new shelter. Commissioners have set a construction budget of $1.6 million to $2 million for the new facility. Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, has said a considerable anonymous donation toward the cost of the shelter would offset the cost.

The new shelter will be located on a 5-acre parcel at 2554 Ind. 49, on county-owned land between the sheriff's department and the Porter County Expo Center which now houses a vacant home and a few outbuildings.

County officials have long discussed a replacement for the current shelter, at 2056 Heavilin Road, because they have said the facility is outdated and too small for the number of animals it serves.

The three priorities for Gairup/M2Ke design would be to create a warm and inviting place, full of natural light and functionally efficient and effective, said David Hill, principal with M2Ke design.

"We want to make it a place people want to go to adopt an animal," he said.

His firm's design would be a cross-shaped structure with natural light for the animal and public spaces. The entrance will have taller elements with space for signs.

"It will be very prominently seen from (Indiana) 49," he said, adding it will have "curb appeal" and be inviting for the public.

The longest portion of the building will run east-west for energy efficiency, and the entire building will have large overhangs to maximize the sun's heat in the winter and minimize it in the summer, and provide coverage for outdoor kennels.

The facility also would have extra-wide corridors in the dog kennel zones and hanging partitions to block the dogs' views of one another and cut down on barking, he said.

In late February, commissioners released a request for proposals to the three teams competing to bid on the project. The RFP specified a facility that was 10,000 to 12,000 square feet, with the ability to expand another 3,000 square feet.

The facility proposed by Gairup/M2Ke design would be around 15,300 square feet.

"I don't think I can get smaller than that and get all the programs" in the facility that officials want, Hill said.

Commissioners will get an update on the animal shelter at their meeting Tuesday and, according to a timeline in the RFP, are expected to award a contract for the new facility at their May 24 meeting. The shelter is expected to be complete by early next year.










Humane Society puts Porter County on notice 
Hobart site won't take Portage's animals once facility is built
Post-Tribune (IN)
March 29, 2016
www.newsbank.com
Officials with the Humane Society of Hobart have given formal notice to the city of Portage and the Porter County Animal Shelter that once the county has a new shelter, the Humane Society no longer will take in Portage's animals.

The letter notes that it's been "many years" since the Humane Society signed a temporary agreement to assist with animal control in Portage, and the city was asked in December to begin making plans for another place to take their animals.

"Now that Porter County is building a new shelter, this is the perfect time to say that the Humane Society will no longer provide animal control services for the City of Portage once the new facility is built," the letter states. "If the city of Portage will not be using the Porter County Shelter, please make plans for a facility of your own or another entity."

The letter says that the Humane Society will continue serving Portage for the time being "but this contract with Portage cannot go on indefinitely as this was supposed to be temporary."

Officials with the Humane Society could not be reached for comment.

As plans for a new county animal shelter move forward with a tentative spring groundbreaking and completion early next year, Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said county officials are in ongoing talks with the city of Portage about being included in the new shelter, and City Councilwoman Sue Lynch sits on an advisory panel for the new facility.

"We don't have a contract hammered out yet but I think all sides are in agreement that we have to be working together," Blaney said, adding the shelter is being built to handle the additional animals from Portage.

The letter, which was signed by Hobart Humane Society Director Brenda Slavik, Board of Directors President Laura Labadie and Treasurer Carol Konopacki, was sent to Porter County officials dated Feb. 18.

Unlike other Porter County communities, Portage has its own staff of animal control officers and has long been taking its animals to the Hobart shelter instead of the county facility.

Portage will retain its animal control officers under the agreement being worked out with the county, Blaney said. "I think we're all expecting Portage to be there from Day 1."

County officials have long considered the existing county shelter, at 2056 Heavilin Road, outdated and too small to handle the number of animals the no-kill shelter receives, and it is not large enough to handle an influx of animals from Portage at its current size.

The new shelter, on Indiana 49 between the Porter County Sheriff's Department and the Expo Center, is expected to be 10,000 to 12,000 square feet with room to expand, according to a request for proposals released in late February by the Board of Commissioners.










Hobart gives notice to Portage, county over animals
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
March 28, 2016 - 4:04PM


Officials with the Humane Society of Hobart have given formal notice to the city of Portage and the Porter County Animal Shelter that once the county has a new shelter, the Humane Society will no longer take in Portage's animals.

The letter notes that it's been "many years" since the Humane Society signed a temporary agreement to assist with animal control in Portage, and the city was asked in December to begin making plans for another place to take their animals.

"Now that Porter County is building a new shelter, this is the perfect time to say that the Humane Society will no longer provide animal control services for the City of Portage once the new facility is built," the letter states. "If the city of Portage will not be using the Porter County Shelter, please make plans for a facility of your own or another entity."

The letter says that the Humane Society will continue serving Portage for the time being "but this contract with Portage cannot go on indefinitely as this was supposed to be temporary."

Officials with the humane society could not be reached for comment.

As plans for a new county animal shelter move forward with a tentative spring groundbreaking and completion early next year, Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said county officials are in ongoing talks with the city of Portage about being included in the new shelter, and City Councilwoman Sue Lynch sits on an advisory for the new facility.

"We don't have a contract hammered out yet but I think all sides are in agreement that we have to be working together," Blaney said, adding the shelter is being built to handle the additional animals from Portage.

The letter, which was signed by Hobart Humane Society Director Brenda Slavik, Board of Directors President Laura Labadie and Treasurer Carol Konopacki, was sent to Porter County officials dated Feb. 18.

Unlike other Porter County communities, Portage has its own staff of animal control officers and has long been taking its animals to the Hobart shelter instead of the county facility.

Portage will retain its animal control officers under the agreement being worked out with the county, Blaney said. "I think we're all expecting Portage to be there from Day 1."

County officials have long considered the existing county shelter, at 2056 Heavilin Road, outdated and too small to handle the number of animals the no-kill shelter receives, and it is not large enough to handle an influx of animals from Portage at its current size.

The new shelter, on Indiana 49 between the Porter County Sheriff's Department and the Expo Center, is expected to be 10,000 to 12,000 square feet with room to expand, according to a request for proposals released in late February by the Board of Commissioners.










Animal shelter retains no-kill status
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
February 09, 2016 - 3:02PM

The Porter County Animal Shelter released animal intake and outcome data for 2015 on Tuesday that confirms their continued status as a no-kill shelter.

The shelter also announced the launch of a new website.

Of the total 1,135 animal outcomes in 2015, just over 7 percent resulted in euthanization. That total was 80 animals, and 26 were euthanized for aggressive behavior and 54 for medical reasons.

A shelter must maintain a euthanization rate below 10 percent to achieve no-kill status. The shelter had 1,139 intakes for the year, with 1,135 outcomes. In all, 92 percent of the animals that came into the shelter were adopted, reclaimed by their owners, or placed with rescue organizations. About 1 percent of the animals were brought to the shelter after they were dead or died after they got there.

"It was a good year for the shelter and our animals," shelter director Toni Bianchi said in a news release. "We were able to make these achievements because of the support of the public, our partner rescue organizations, and a committed shelter staff. But we have more work to do."

Last year, 82 percent of the animal intakes were strays, yet only 24 percent of the outcomes were returned to the owner. Another 5.7 percent of the intakes were owner surrenders and 6 percent were adoption returns.

"We took a hard look at these numbers and found a need to better educate the public about resources to find and reclaim their lost animals, alternatives to owner surrenders, and helping potential adopters truly understand that adopting an animal is a serious, lifelong commitment," Bianchi said in the news release. "That was a big part of our decision to develop a new and more comprehensive website, so that we could try and reduce the number of animals coming into the shelter."

The new website includes categories for help in finding and reclaiming lost animals, as well as alternatives to the most common reasons for owner surrenders. It also has information for those thinking of adopting, including the cost of owning an animal, the supplies needed, choosing the right animal for their lifestyle, and planning the animal's homecoming.

Groundbreaking for a new shelter on Indiana 49, just north of the Porter County Expo Center, is slated for May. The new shelter will replace the current one at 2056 Heavilin Road, which county officials have long said is outdated and too small for the number of animals it handles.

"During Toni's short tenure as director, we've seen amazing progress at the shelter and it is fantastic that she is now proactively trying to reduce animal intakes through public education and awareness," said Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, in the news release.

During the website development process, shelter staff compiled lists of the most commonly asked questions by the public, and identified areas where the public can be engaged in supporting the shelter's mission. There are also more than 80 subpages that include adoption success stories; volunteering; upcoming events; becoming a foster; the shelter's wish list; updates on the new shelter; low cost spay/neuter programs; and more.

"We've tried to develop a website that is user friendly and offers information that is truly educational and useful," Bianchi said.

The new website can be viewed at www.porterco.org/pcas.









Portage considers county option for animal control 
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
January 22, 2016 - 2:00PM

As plans for a new Porter County Animal Shelter move forward with a groundbreaking tentatively scheduled for May, Portage officials are in talks with the county about bringing their animals there instead of taking them to the Hobart Humane Society.

The discussion comes as the humane society was going to force Portage to make other arrangements for its animals come March 1 but, with the shelter in the works and Portage possibly included, director Brenda Slavik said the Hobart facility will continue to take Portage's animals through the end of the year or until the new shelter is ready.

"We're just trying to get something under them to get them going. We've been doing this for 11 years. We didn't want to do this that long," she said. The shelter accepts intakes from animal control in Portage, Hobart and Lake Station.

Portage is the only municipality in Porter County that does not rely on the county for animal control and shelter services. County officials have long considered the existing shelter, at 2056 Heavilin Road, outdated and too small to handle the number of animals the no-kill shelter receives, and it is not large enough to handle an influx of animals from Portage if that city's agreement with the Hobart Humane Society were to break down before a new shelter was ready.

Many details remain to be worked out, but Portage City Councilwoman Sue Lynch, D-at-large, said the city would like to maintain its own animal control officers and provide a temporary holding area for the animals brought in by animal control.

That would make it more convenient for residents to reclaim their lost pets without having to go to the shelter, which will be located on Indiana 49 between the Porter County Sheriff's Department and the Expo Center, and any animals that aren't claimed by the end of each week could be transported to the county shelter.

"It would reduce the numbers we take to Valparaiso," Lynch said, and the city would no longer be using the humane society, which is not a no-kill shelter.

Taxpayers are already contributing to the county shelter, she said, and while the city would have to pay for the shelter's services once its animals go there, if Portage uses its own animal control officers, it won't have to pay the county for that service.

"The cost can't be the same to Portage as it is for the other communities because we have been maintaining our animal control," she said, adding Portage and county officials have several months to work out the details while design and construction of the shelter move forward.

In September, county officials were surprised to learn the high percentage of animals that were brought to the Hobart shelter from Portage and euthanized, which was almost 60 percent, according to numbers provided by Portage Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham. Portage Mayor James Snyder said at the time the number was being driven up by the number of feral cats brought in from mobile homes and euthanized.

Lynch is serving on a committee spearheaded by Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, which is working out what services the new shelter will provide.

The county's hope is that Portage will want to be included in the new shelter, Blaney said.

"Obviously, it does make a difference in the size," she said, adding the facility will be designed for future expansion, or for an addition if the county and Portage can't come to an agreement before the shelter is constructed. "It would make more sense to work it out now, and I think both parties are at the table."

Portage would have to pay for shelter services even if the city maintains its own animal control, which is only fair, she said.

"Our goal is to bring them in. We want to bring them in, and it's a better deal for their animals," she said.

County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said at a recent commissioners meeting that the county would like to keep the cost of the building under $2 million; cost estimates are expected to be available in April when three companies and groups of companies offer up proposals for a new facility.

An anonymous donor has offered a significant donation toward the cost of the shelter and Blaney said that offer still stands.

"Generally speaking, we want to build a animal shelter that is something that Porter County can be proud of, so we don't want to shortchange it," said Council President Dan Whitten, D-at-large, adding the facility should be state-of-the art and a benefit to animals in the county.

He agreed with Blaney that Portage can maintain its own animal control "but they still have to have some buy-in."

The county doesn't want to build a facility too small to accommodate all the municipalities that want to take their animals there, nor do officials want a municipality to use the services and not pay for them.

"That cuts down on our ability to build something nicer," he said. "Everybody should come to the table because it's better. If you're at all an animal lover, you have to be excited about the prospect."









Companies pitch plans for animal shelter
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
January 19, 2016

Three companies or groups of companies have thrown their hats in the ring to build a new animal shelter for Porter County.

Porter County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said during a Tuesday meeting the technical service committee for the project received three responses to submit requests for proposals for the shelter, which will be constructed on county-owned Indiana 49, north of the Porter County Expo Center.

The committee reviewed the responses and ranked Larson Danielson Construction Company first, Gariup Construction and M2Ke Design second and Core, Epoch, Millies and Abonmarche third.

"We feel we have really good players who want to put an animal shelter together," Good said, adding the committee consists of himself and an engineer and construction company representative from within the county.

County officials long have said the current shelter, 2056 Heavilin Road, is outdated and too small for the number of animals it serves.

The technical service committee will put together what it wants to see in a new shelter for a request for proposals and that will go out Feb. 17, he said. The companies' proposals will be due April 7, with estimated costs. He expects a tentative groundbreaking in May.

At the same time, Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, is working with an advisory committee composed of representatives from the county council, a rescue group, the Expo Center, the animal shelter, the fair board and a veterinarian.

Their goal is to come up with what services the shelter will provide and what the facility will need.

"They're there to give input so we don't step on toes or duplicate (services)," she said.

Good said he didn't have any idea on what the facility would cost, but officials are trying to keep the building portion of the project under $2 million. A feasibility study a few ago by Shelter Planners of America suggested a new shelter would cost approximately $2.6 million.

The competitive nature of the design/build process, Good said, helps keep the price in check.

"For a specialty-type building, this is the way to go. You can control the design and any time you control the design, you control the costs," he said.

In related business, commissioners approved a contract for animal control and animal shelter services between the county and Beverly Shores, part of an update started in June for contracts between the county and its communities for those services.

The city of Portage has its own animal control officer and takes its animals to the Hobart Humane Society, but Board of Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, asked county attorney Scott McClure to work up the costs for Portage as plans for the shelter move forward.

"We can say we offered (the contracts) to everyone now," Evans said.









Land preparation to begin for new animal shelter
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
December 15, 2015 - 3:33PM

Construction on a new county animal shelter could begin in the spring, and the Board of Commissioners have asked the county's highway department to tear down the old house on the property.

"Let's tear down the buildings and get started," Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, said Tuesday of the county-owned land, on Indiana 49 between the Porter County Sheriff's Department and the Expo Center.

Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said soil borings would be needed at the site in the coming weeks, which will require the house and a few outbuildings to be torn down, though some buildings may remain for construction equipment storage.

The work will include salvaging an air conditioning unit and other equipment from the old house.

Good is heading up a technical review committee for the new building, and said the committee is ready to start the request for qualifications process. The committee will review the firms interested in the design/build process for the shelter and rate them, getting the list down to three potential bidders.

That list will be ready early next year.

"It is moving forward. We are following state guidelines," Good said, adding this is the first time the county is using the design/build process, which will be useful for future projects.

Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, suggested putting up a sign announcing the spot as the new site for the shelter.

The current shelter, at 2056 Heavilin Road, is a facility that county officials have long said was too old and too small to handle the volume of animals that pass through it.

Previous discussion about where to put a new shelter have included on county-owned property at U.S. 130 and Ind. 149, and at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, among other locations.

In other business, commissioners renewed a contract with Porter Health Care System for another year for its Care Express urgent care clinics, located in Chesterton, Portage and Valparaiso.

This will be the third year for the contract, which is unchanged from past years, said Porter's chief executive officer, Steve Lunn. Under the contract, the county pays $125 when employees or those covered on their insurance use one of the clinics and employees have a $10 co-pay.

The clinics saw 656 people in 2014 and expect to see 667 people this year under the contract, Lunn said.

Before the county signed the contract with Porter, it had a contract with Healthy Access for a flat rate of $18,000 per month, regardless of how many employees used it, said Mike Anton, the county's servicing agent for its health insurance.

Under the old plan, 20 to 30 employees were using Healthy Access clinics each month; that's now 50 to 55 people with Care Express, Anton said.

Additionally, commissioners announced they hired Matthew Stechly of Valparaiso as the county's new facilities director after conducting four interviews earlier Tuesday. Stechly, who has a background in facilities management, starts Jan. 4 at an annual salary of $57,000.









Shelter releases animal data; achieves no-kill status
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
November 06, 2015 - 5:47PM

The Porter County Animal Shelter on Friday released animal intake and outcome data for the first three quarters of this year, numbers that show a little more than 7 percent of the animals were euthanized, a low enough figure for the shelter to be considered a no-kill facility.

The standard for achieving no-kill status is that the shelter maintains a euthanasia rate below 10 percent, said Toni Bianchi, the shelter's interim director.

The shelter provided the following statistics on what happened to the rest of the animals brought to the shelter through Sept. 30:

• 41.05 percent were adopted.

•24.36 percent were reclaimed by their owners.

•26.14 percent were placed with approved rescue organizations.

• 0.33 percent were deceased animals brought to the shelter by Porter County Animal Control for disposal of remains.

•1 percent were animals that died while in the care of the shelter.

The numbers are crucial as the county moves forward with plans for a new shelter. The Board of Commissioners took action last month to start the design-build process for a new shelter, to be located on Indiana 49 just south of the Porter County sheriff's department, and construction could begin in the spring.

"It gives us an idea of how many animals we've taken in and how many we're housing," Bianchi said. "It gives us an idea of what we're going to need and what's going to be needed in the future."

Bianchi said she looks at the numbers each quarter to gauge what's going on at the shelter and decided to release them for greater transparency of the shelter's operations.

"We didn't want people to not know what's going on here," she said. "We've got nothing to hide."

Given the challenges faced by the shelter, at 2056 Heavilin Road, Bianchi said she is pleased it has been able to maintain its no-kill status, adding that euthanasia is an absolute last resort when no other avenue is open to prevent a danger to the public and other animals, or pain and suffering of the animal. The decision to euthanize an animal is made by a consensus of shelter officials.

The shelter changed its intake procedure a few months ago to reduce the number of animals who get sick while at the shelter, Bianchi said, and that includes a quarantine and isolation if necessary.

So far this year, the shelter has taken in 928 animals, including 462 dogs, 455 cats and 11 other animals, including rabbits, goats, guinea pigs, chickens and roosters.










New animal shelter design process started in Porter County
Amy Lavalley
Post-Tribune
October 27, 2015 - 5:57PM
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-commissioners-in-porter-st1028-20151027-story.html

The Porter County Board of Commissioners took an important step Tuesday in getting a new animal shelter built.

Commissioners kicked off the start of the design-build process for a new shelter, to be located on Indiana 49 just south of the Porter County Sheriff's Department, and construction could begin in the spring.

Commissioners appointed Kurt Schmiegel, of the architectural and engineering firm DLZ, as the project's design criteria developer, and appointed Schmiegel, Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center; and Jim Dyer, of Berglund Construction, to serve as members of a technical review committee for the project.

A 2014 state statute allows the design-build process, which permits modifications and ways to control costs along the way, Good said.

The process starts with the resolution, which commissioners approved at their meeting, followed by the technical review committee putting out a request for qualifications, or RFQ, for a contractor to take on the project.

Once at least three firms submit RFQs for the project, Good said, the technical review committee asks for a request for proposals from those contractors for the project, and includes the square footage, features, number of rooms and other details.

The step after that, Good said, would be to select a contractor.

There's no cost estimate for the project at this point, Good said, adding that is something that will be determined during the design-build process. An earlier estimate a few years ago by Shelter Planners of America put an estimated cost for a shelter at $2.5 million, but officials have said that figure was too high. An anonymous donor also has offered $1 million toward the cost of a new shelter.

Good expects ground to be broken in the spring, and said the county has been in talks with the Indiana Department of Transportation about extending an access road that now serves the sheriff's department and Pratt Industries so entrance to the shelter would not be off Ind. 49, as well as talking to the city of Valparaiso about providing utilities to the site.

Commissioners announced almost a year ago that a new shelter would be built on Ind. 49 but work had not started on the project. It was the latest of several sites bandied about for a shelter to replace the one at 2056 Heavilin Road, which county officials have long said was too small and outdated for the number of animals it handles.

"We are more than ready to proceed," said Commissioners President John Evans, R-North.

In related business, commissioners extended Toni Bianchi's consulting contract as interim shelter director for another two months, though the end of the year.



As of Jan. 1, she will hold the post permanently; during a budget hearing Monday, the county council approved her salary at $60,000, an increase from $45,000, in recognition of the responsibilities of the post and an effort to increase the salaries of department heads.










Humane Society of Hobart reviewing contracts
September 29, 2015 - 6:30 pm
NWI Times

HOBART | The Humane Society of Hobart’s board is in the midst of reviewing contracts it has in place to provide services to three local municipalities.

Through agreements with Hobart, Lake Station and Portage, the organization provides animal control field services and animal housing to the municipalities, Chris Skrenka, Humane Society of Hobart board member, said Monday during the group's meeting.

He said the board is reviewing all of its animal control and housing contracts to determine the role the Humane Society of Hobart will have in the community in the future.

“At this point we feel it is important to continue as an open-admission facility,” Skrenka said. “We will take into consideration the input of our outstanding supporters, trained and licensed animal welfare individuals and national organizations who understand our responsibilities to the community when discussing future direction and operating policy."

Skrenka has explained the Hobart society established its agreement with Portage more than a decade ago, and it was initially intended to be on a temporary basis.

Monday’s board meeting also served as an opportunity to gather feedback from the community about the organization.

Some have asked the Humane Society of Hobart to be more transparent.

In particular, Hobart resident Cate Amador asked for the organization’s performance numbers and protocol.

Amador said “there’s big grants out there” that can assist in animal control efforts, but figures, including euthanasia numbers from the organization, are needed in those applications.

Board member Laura Labadie said euthanasia is a “sensitive” topic, and many animal organizations don’t provide those figures.

She explained the Humane Society of Hobart doesn’t take euthanasia lightly, and at least two employees are involved in decisions regarding euthanasia. She also said the organization on many occasions contacts area veterinarians before making such decisions.

Skrenka also explained the Humane Society of Hobart is an open-admission animal shelter, but it isn’t an animal rescue. He said the organization “doesn’t have the luxury to pick and choose” animals it accepts at the facility, and there are situations in which animals brought to the facility are sick and injured.

“We’re usually the last stop for a lot of people,” Skrenka said.

Euthanasia figures for the Humane Society of Hobart also could be different from other local animal shelters because the organization also performs owner-requested euthanasia.

There also were several at Monday’s meeting supporting the Hobart society.

Hobart resident Bob Krebes was among those who said he attended the session to speak in favor of the organization.










Humane society defends practices, considering role in communities
Chicago Tribune
September 28, 2015 - 7:11 PM





The board of directors for the embattled Humane Society of Hobart told both supporters and critics attending an open meeting Monday that the board will be deciding soon what role it will be playing in the community in the future.

The center currently acts as animal control for the cities of Hobart, Lake Station and Portage, but various members stated in the past and at the meeting that they believe Porter County, not the shelter, should be taking in animals from Portage.

"This has been going on since the 1990s," longtime board member Carol Konopacki told the approximately 20 people attending the board meeting of Porter County's refusal to take Portage's stray animals.

Board member Chris Skrenka said the shelter will continue to have open admission of animals.

The humane society has come under fire from local animal activists and Portage city officials, prompting Monday night's meeting.

Activists have called for more transparency from the shelter, including being able to see the number of animals it brings in and the number of euthanasias it performs. They also said board meetings haven't been advertised so the public could attend.

Some Portage officials were upset recently when they learned a report that showed 60 percent of the animals picked up by Portage Animal Control and taken to the Hobart facility were euthanized from June 2014 through June of this year. In Hobart, around 40 percent of the animals brought in during all of 2014 were put down, according to statistics provided by the shelter to the city.

Skrenka questioned the accuracy of those numbers and reiterated that the humane society is the only nonprofit in the area that takes in animals from three communities.

"We're not a rescue group. We don't have the luxury of choosing what animals we'll take in," Skrenka said.

"We don't have a sign up front that says bring your animals to us. We're the last stop for most people," he added.

Still, he said, the goal of the shelter is to get as many animals adopted as possible as quickly as possible. He said the average stay before adoption is six days.

Mary Watson, shelter supporter, said

the shelter's detractors aren't helping anyone, especially the animals.

"I've adopted animals from here. They need community support," she said.

Cate Amador, one of the activists seeking more transpareny and less euthanasias at the shelter, said she received some numbers from the City of Hobart concerning animals brought in and euthanized at the shelter that came from Hobart, but asked for more detailed numbers.

"The numbers I received were confusing. How many went to rescues? Several organizations are looking for these numbers. There are grants out there for spaying and neutering, but they need the numbers," she said.

Some attending the meeting asked how they could help and offered their support.

"We need to start working together instead of fighting. We need to move forward," said Jamie Peyton, a Union Township resident who said she wanted to be a board member.

Board president Laura Labadie said the board is working on a new website for the shelter that will have more information, including the date and time of board meetings.

She said she thought Monday's meeting was productive.

"We got a great feel of the peoples' thoughts," she said.













Humane society meeting moved to Hobart facility
September 25, 2015 - 5:55 PM
Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-humane-meeting-st-0926-20150925-story.html

The Humane Society of Hobart's board of directors has changed the location of its Monday public meeting from Hobart City Hall to the shelter, 2054 E. Indiana 130.

The meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m.

Police Chief Richard Zormier said Friday this was the first he heard of a change in venue and he had no current plans to have police officers on hand for crowd control at the smaller location.

The humane society has come under scrutiny from local animal activists and Portage city officials.

Activists have called for more transparency from the shelter, including being able to see the number of animals its brings in and the number of euthanasias it performs. They also said board meetings haven't been advertised so the public could attend.

Portage officials were upset upon learning that about 60 percent of the animals picked up by Portage Animal Control and taken to the humane society were euthanized from June 2014 through June of this year. In Hobart, which like Portage and Lake Station uses Hobart Humane Society for its animal control, 38 percent of the animals brought in during all of 2014 were put down, according to statistics provided by the shelter to the city.

Chris Skrenka, a board member and volunteer at the shelter, said the meetings have never been advertised, but the board has never stopped anyone from attending.










Animal rights advocates call for change 
Humane Society defends practices; more transparency sought 
Post-Tribune (IN)
September 21, 2015
www.newsbank.com
A group of local animal activists has taken its fight for transparency at the Humane Society of Hobart to the Hobart City Council, asking that the number of animals euthanized at the shelter and the shelter's protocols be made public.

"There is no excuse for the people not to know these numbers. The truth will come out eventually," said Cate Amador, a Hobart resident speaking for the activists.

The group approached the council after a Post-Tribune story found that almost 60 percent of the animals picked up by the Portage Animal Control and taken to the Hobart Humane Society were euthanized, according to statistics from June 2014 through June 2015 provided by Portage Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham.

More than 5,000 people have signed an online petition seeking leadership and personnel changes at the shelter.

Attempts to obtain the number of animals brought in and the number euthanized from Hobart and Lake Station have been unsuccessful.

Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor said he hasn't received a report for the past three months, and Lake Station said a public records request had to be made first. The shelter said the numbers were made available to the cities it serves and could be obtained from them.

Portage, Lake Station and Hobart all use the humane society for their animal control, a fact that board members of the shelter say cause their percentages to be higher than other shelters.

Chris Skrenka, a board member and volunteer at the shelter, also attended the council meeting. He said he didn't know the exact numbers of euthanasias, but added they are higher than they would like. He said a joint decision, usually involving two people, is made as to when an animal would be euthanized.

"We're taking in thousands more animals than the other animal shelters every year," he said.

He said the board has never been asked for their protocols.

"We've never advertised our board meetings, but we haven't stopped anyone from coming," Skrenka said.

Snedecor said he met with the shelter's board members and told them the city thought there needed to be an audit done. He said the shelter's board members indicated to him they want to be more transparent to the public and will hold a public meeting at city hall at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 28.

"I agree tax dollars need to be accounted for," Snedecor said. "We can discontinue our contract with the shelter, but what other options are there?"

The shelter's critics have vowed to continue their fight.

"We won't quit until we get them," Michelle Duca, one of the activists and founder and CEO of the Kibble Kitchen Pet Pantry in Hobart, said of the numbers.

The activists said they don't want to shut down the humane society; they just want change.

Amador, a volunteer with Kibble Kitchen, which provides free pet food and supplies to pet owners who can't afford them, said the movement among most shelters has been to "no kill," but that's not the case with Hobart.

Board members and the shelter's executive director, Brenda Slavik, said the shelter has never claimed to be no kill. They said the shelter is unique in this area because it is the only one that serves as animal control for three cities.

They also point out that they accept all animals, unlike many of the no-kill shelters, which they say turn some away. The shelter also euthanizes dying pets for people who can't afford to pay a veterinarian for the service. In Portage's case, some of the animals euthanized were feral cats brought in by residents of a mobile home park, officials said.

Board members denied accusations that they keep an animal there only a couple days before euthanizing them. They said the animals are euthanized if they're aggressive, very sick, contagious to other animals or severely injured.

"How can we in good conscience adopt out an animal that could be a public nuisance or a danger to the public?" Skrenka said.

The shelter's critics also pointed out the shelter received a poor rating from the Better Business Bureau of Northwest Indiana because it didn't complete its financial information on its report.

Board president Laura Labadie said the board is attempting to provide the information requested by the Better Business Bureau. The bureau stated on its website that the shelter's report "is in progress."

"We want to move forward putting our policies and procedures on our website," Labadie sad. "We want to be more transparent."










Steps taken to begin new animal shelter project
September 19, 2015 - 4:05 PM
Post-Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-porter-animal-shelter-st-0920-20150917-story.html
The Porter County Board of Commissioners has taken two steps forward in building a new animal shelter.

They gave the go-ahead to hire the architectural and engineering firm DLZ to write a request for proposals for the design and build of a new shelter, and they appropriated seed money to start a trap-neuter-release program through the shelter to help control the feral cat population.

County officials have long discussed the need for a new shelter to replace the one at 2056 Heavilin Road, which they agree is outdated and too small to handle the number of animals that come through it.

While they have discussed an assortment of possibilities, most recently a proposal to build a new shelter on Indiana 49 just north of the Porter County Expo Center, no solid plans have come forward.

Commissioners will ask Mike Jabo of DLZ to get figures on the size and cost of a new shelter, Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said Tuesday. An anonymous donor has offered $1 million toward the project and that offer still stands; earlier estimates for a new building put the cost at around $2.5 million.

"This has not been without roadblocks and hurdles, and there are still more to be cleared," Blaney said, "but the one thing everyone agrees on is that it needs to be done."

One of the unknowns in the size of the shelter is whether the city of Portage, which takes its animals to the Hobart Humane Society, will begin bringing its animals to the county facility once a new one is built.

The facility's cost would depend on its size, the final site for the building, the availability of utilities, and the construction market, Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said.

"It is a much-guided and much-guarded process, but I think it's the right way to go," he said.

Commissioners also appropriated $5,000 in unallocated county economic development income tax funds to start the trap-neuter-release program for feral cats.

Through the initiative, feral cats would be trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies, and returned to their colony with a notch in one ear to identify that they'd been through the program, interim shelter Director Toni Bianchi said.

Returning the feral cats, which cannot be tamed as house pets, would prevent different cats from moving into an area, she said, adding spaying and neutering the cats will drastically cut their numbers as well as stop destructive behavior.

"If we don't do this, we really do create a significant challenge to animal control in our community," she said. "The best opportunity here is to start a trap-neuter-release program."

Similar efforts have paid off in other communities, she said, and the shelter is flooded with kittens in the spring and fall. "This kind of program is going to reduce that," she said.

The program will realize savings for animal control and the shelter over time, Bianchi said, adding the effort will be volunteer-led and could ultimately be funded with donations.

"I think this is going to save us money in the long run heading into a new shelter," Blaney said.










Humane Society defends practices, aims for greater transparency in Hobart
Chicago Tribune
September 18, 2015 - 7:46 PM

A group of local animal activists has taken its fight for transparency at the Humane Society of Hobart to the Hobart City Council, asking that the number of animals euthanized at the shelter and the shelter's protocols be made public.

"There is no excuse for the people not to know these numbers. The truth will come out eventually," said Cate Amador, a Hobart resident who was speaking for the activists Wednesday.

The group approached the council after a Post-Tribune story found that almost 60 percent of the animals picked up by the Portage Animal Control and taken to the Hobart Humane Society were euthanized, according to statistics from June 2014 through June 2015 provided by Portage Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham.

More than 5,000 people have signed an online petition seeking leadership and personnel changes at the shelter.

Attempts to obtain the number of animals brought in and the number euthanized from Hobart and Lake Station have been unsuccessful. Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor said he hasn't received a report for the past three months and Lake Station said a public records request had to be made first. The shelter said the numbers were made available to the cities it serves and could be obtained from them.

Portage, Lake Station and Hobart all use the humane society for their animal control, a fact that board members of the shelter say cause their percentages to be higher than other shelters.

Chris Skrenka, a board member and volunteer at the shelter, also attended the council meeting. He said he didn't know the exact numbers of euthanasias, but added they are higher than they would like. He said a joint decision, usually involving two people, is made as to when an animal would be euthanized.

"We're taking in thousands more animals than the other animal shelters every year," he said.

He said the board has never been asked for their protocols.

"We've never advertised our board meetings, but we haven't stopped anyone from coming," Skrenka said.

Snedecor said he met with the shelter's board members and told them the city felt there needed to be an audit done. He said the shelter's board members indicated to him that they want to be more transparent to the public and will hold a public meeting at city hall at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 28.

"I agree tax dollars need to be accounted for," Snedecor said. "We can discontinue our contract with the shelter, but what other options are there?"

The shelter's critics have vowed to continue their fight.

"We won't quit until we get them," Michelle Duca, one of the activists and founder and CEO of the Kibble Kitchen Pet Pantry in Hobart, said of the numbers.

The activists said they don't want to shut down the humane society; they just want change.

Amador, a volunteer with Kibble Kitchen, which provides free pet food and supplies to pet owners who can't afford them, said the movement among most shelters has been to "no kill," but that's not the case with Hobart.

Board members and the shelter's executive director, Brenda Slavik, said the shelter has never claimed to be no kill. They said the shelter is unique in this area because it is the only one that serves as animal control for three cities.

They also point out that they accept all animals, unlike many of the no-kill shelters, which they say turn some away. The shelter also euthanizes dying pets for people who can't afford to pay a veterinarian for the service. In Portage's case, some of the animals euthanized were feral cats brought in by residents of a mobile home park, officials said.

Board members denied accusations that they only keep an animal there a couple days before euthanizing them. They said the animals are euthanized if they're aggressive, very sick, contagious to other animals or severely injured.

"How can we in good conscience adopt out an animal that could be a public nuisance or a danger to the public?" Skrenka said.

The shelter's critics also pointed out that the shelter received a poor rating from the Better Business Bureau of Northwest Indiana because it didn't complete its financial information on its report.

Board president Laura Labadie said the board is attempting to provide the information requested by the Better Business Bureau. The bureau stated on its website that the shelter's report "is in progress."

"We want to move forward putting our policies and procedures on our website," Labadie sad. "We want to be more transparent."










Porter County animal shelter proposal moves ahead
September 15, 2015 5:00 pm
Deborah Laverty Times Correspondent
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/porter/porter-county-animal-shelter-proposal-moves-ahead/article_175b81af-b598-5990-a2fb-c6aa52a2c4f5.html

VALPARAISO | The Porter County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to take the first step toward the possibility of building a new animal shelter.

The commissioners directed DLZ Indiana to write up a request for a proposal for the design of a new Porter County Animal Shelter.

Porter County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said this is the best way to go forward since at this point it's hard to determine cost if such things as the size and scope of the building aren't known.

"We're not getting out ahead of our skis. We are just trying to be prepared ... Once we have the design, we can go forward," Good said.

Good has continued to maintain that planning for a new animal shelter is very much alive and well, despite claims made to the contrary by the Porter County Council at a meeting in late July.

The County Council had a lengthy discussion during its meeting in July, during which time members said it appeared the Board of Commissioners was no longer working toward building a new shelter.

Past proposals have included moving the shelter to the former Fetla's store on Ind. 2, having Opportunity Enterprises lend a hand with janitorial services, building a shelter at Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Liberty Township and Partnering with Lakeshore PAWS dog rescue, county officials have said.

There had also been talk about building new shelter south of the intersection of Ind. 149 and Ind. 130.

The latest proposal, which surfaced late last year, called for replacing the 33-year-old shelter with a new one at the county-owned Expo Center site along Ind. 49, south of U.S. 30. The county has an anonymous donor offering $1 million toward construction costs.

Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said commissioners have done a deep dive as far as researching the building of a new animal shelter including costs, size, location and making it cost effective.

"It's absolutely needed," Blaney said.

Good said he's finding in his research that everyone wants a shelter but no one wants it in their backyard.

"I've taken it very seriously; it's all part of educating self before spending taxpayers' money," Good said.

In related business, the commissioners agreed to a proposal by Porter County Animal Shelter Director Toni Bianchi to go forward with a trap, neuter and release program for the county's feral or wild cat population.

Bianchi said the program will end up costing the county less money in the long run because the feral cats will be humanely trapped then neutered and released back to their same location.

The cats, because they are being neutered, won't keep reproducing so eventually the population would die out.

"We get flooded with cats in the spring and fall and this kind of program will reduce that," Bianchi said.

Commissioners also approved a $5,000 allocation that must next be approved by the Porter County Council.










Pet euthanization figures startle Portage, Porter County
Chicago Tribune
September 11, 2015 - 6:15 PM

As talks continue to build a new animal shelter for Porter County, officials there were aghast to learn that almost 60 percent of the animals picked up by Portage Animal Control and taken to the Humane Society of Hobart are euthanized.

According to statistics provided by Portage Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham, from June 2014 through June 2015, almost 59 percent of the total animals were put down, and about 9.3 percent of the total were euthanized after they were deemed dangerous.

But Portage Mayor James Snyder said he checked with the humane society and the figure is not only from animal control. Residents from mobile home parks are bringing in feral cats to be euthanized, driving up the statistics, and the majority of animals brought in by animal control are redeemed by their owners, he said.

"We get billed if Portage takes an animal there," he said.

The high rate still outrages county officials.

"These numbers are going to paint a very ugly picture," said County Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, whose district includes Portage. "Every day it's not built, animals are not being the chance to live by the city of Portage."

Portage has its own animal control officers and has taken its strays to the Hobart shelter for as long as anyone remembers. But as the Porter County Board of Commissioners plans for a new shelter – an announcement of those plans could be made in the coming weeks – whether the county's largest city will participate remains to be seen.

Over the past few years, county officials have come up with, and then nixed, an assortment of plans for a new shelter to replace the one at 2056 Heavilin Road, off of Ind. 2. Officials have long considered the facility outdated and too small to handle the number of animals the no-kill shelter receives. Commissioners announced late last year a new shelter would be built on Indana 49, just north of the Porter County Expo Center, but no details have been forthcoming since then.

Complicating matters between Portage and county officials is what appears to be an almost complete lack of communication to bring the two sides together to determine if or how Portage would participate in a county facility.

Information on the number of animals taken in and euthanized from the Hobart Humane Society was not available.

Brenda Slavik, the shelter's director, said the numbers from Portage were wrong and she didn't know where they came from.

"I don't know what numbers they're talking about," she said, adding numbers are only sent to the cities the shelter serves if they ask for them.

One of the society's board directors said it's not required to release information on euthanazations and the information could be retrieved from the cities it serves -- Portage, Hobart and Lake Station. Several city departments in Hobart said they didn't have that information and an employee at Lake Station City Hall said a public information request was needed to obtain the information.

According to the humane society's website, it takes in an average of 5,700 animals a year. The site claims the animals have a 75 percent chance of adoption.

Board member Chris Skrenka said the number of euthanazations at the Hobart shelter would be higher than at other shelters because it is the only one in the area that serves as animal control for three cities and it also euthanizes animals for residents who can't afford to pay to for the service for their own dying animals.

"Portage animals should be going to Porter County," Skrenka said. "If people criticize, they can go out and build a better mousetrap."

Board president Laura Labadie said the length of time an animals is kept at the shelter varies. She said there was a black Labrador at the shelter for about two months.

Board members said the animals are euthanized if they are very sick or contagious to other animals at the shelter with a deadly virus, severely injured or very aggressive.

In Portage, Rick Henderlong, the city's animal control warden, said the city doesn't deem an animal as dangerous. Cases where dogs attack people go through city court. The city also does not euthanize animals.

"Once we drop an animal at the Hobart Humane Society, we lose complete control over that animal," he said.

To reclaim lost dogs, Portage residents pay a fee to the city and retrieve their animals in Hobart, Henderlong said. The shelter sends a monthly report of the numbers to the city so the city knows how much it owes the humane society for its services.

He called the euthanization rate "really high."

Also calling the number "a lot" was Toni Bianchi, interim director of the county animal shelter. The shelter has euthanized 7 percent of the animals it's taken in so far this year, and Bianchi said national no-kill advocates set a threshold of less than 10 percent for shelters to be considered no-kill.

Because the shelter is often at or beyond its capacity of 81 cats and 50 dogs, Bianchi works with rescue groups to take the animals and get them adopted. Sometimes they call her asking about specific breeds or older dogs, for example, or she contacts them, or they come through and see which animals they want. The county does not charge rescues for the service.

"I look at it this way," she said. "If you do take a dog from us, that's great because it creates an open kennel and it's one more dog we can take off the street."

Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large, called the euthanization rate "pretty staggering."

"It just seems as if your animal is a stray in that jurisdiction, it starts walking the 'Green Mile,'" he said, referring to the Stephen King book and movie about Death Row. "They need to find a way of not doing that, and one of the ways is to join discussions about the animal shelter."

Whitten said Snyder "has made zero effort" to reach out to the county to be part of the discussion about a new shelter. He suggests Snyder and the city council, as well as the county council and commissioners, get actively involved in the county's plans.

"The kill philosophy does not mesh with the county," he said. "Those numbers shock the conscious."

Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, who's spearheading efforts for a new county shelter, called the lack of communication with Portage frustrating.

"There needs to be a commitment," she said, adding commissioners, who oversee the shelter, are considering two options for square footage for a new building so there will be room if Portage wants to be thrown into the mix, but it would be easier to know now than have to build an addition later.

"We are maxed out in our current facility. If we can help reduce that euthanization rate and get the Portage animals in our shelter, heck, we're interested," she said. "But we need that dialogue and it's going to cost more, but it could be a win-win."

"I'm on the record 50 times saying they need to get the shelter built," Snyder said.

He and City Councilman Ted Uzelac said the city council has sent two letters to the county council about the shelter and received no response, in addition to informal discussion about the need.

Neither Whitten nor Rivas said they have received those letters. Rivas said he's also talked to city officials in general but had no specific meetings on the topic.

Regardless, Snyder said the animals from his city would overrun the county shelter as it is now, creating unsafe and dangerous conditions, even though Portage residents help pay for it through county taxes. He added that he is waiting on the county to get the shelter built.

"The county continues to operate like we're not here, and my residents are the biggest block of taxpayers and they get no service," he said. "Until Porter County gets something done, there's nothing Portage can do."

Portage residents are paying twice for animal services, Uzelac said, adding their tax dollars support both the county shelter and the Humane Society of Hobart. The city pays $25,000 a year to the Hobart shelter.

Still, he said he's not being critical of county officials, and added if they were able to get together, they could resolve the problem.

"Portage is proud to be part of Porter County, but we would like to be more a part of this mix," he said. "My goal is to have some dialogue."

His proposal is for Portage to keep its animal control officers and their trucks, and continue to pick up animals in that city. Animal control could house them for five days, so people have a chance to find them, and if the animals weren't claimed by then, they would be transported to the county shelter.

The plan would include an investment by the city to house the animals temporarily.

"Sure, they're going to have to build a bigger facility but we should have been involved from Day 1," he said.










Porter County city and towns asked to pay more for the dog catcher
Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345
June 02, 2015
NWI Times
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/porter/porter-county-city-and-towns-asked-to-pay-more-for/article_18cf0a3e-4531-5c24-9bc6-62a9a7745640.html

VALPARAISO | The city of Valparaiso is facing an increase of more than 200 percent in its annual fee for animal control services provided by the county.

The proposed increase from $20,150 to $63,200 is part of an effort by the Porter County Board of Commissioners to address ongoing collection and contract problems with the service, according to County Attorney Elizabeth Knight.

The municipal contracts, which are voluntary and provided by the county on an elective basis, have not been updated since 2010, Knight said. Most of the proceeds went uncollected between 2012 and 2014, she said.

As a result of the county Sheriff's Department taking over the animal control services from the shelter in 2011, an evaluation was done to determine what each municipality should be paying based on historical use, she said.

Jeff Biggs, who serves as chief deputy at the Sheriff's Department, said five years of service calls were evaluated and calculated against the department's $200,000 annual operating cost for animal control that covers three officers, overtime and three vehicles.

Other municipalities facing an increase include Beverly Shores ($558 to $1,600), Burns Harbor ($682 to $1,600), Hebron ($2,015 to $5,600), Kouts ($1,550 to $1,600), Pines ($1,209 to $2,400) and Porter ($4,371 to $11,520), according to Biggs.

Chesterton's rate went down from $6,076 to $3,120.

Biggs said Chesterton stood out as having paid the fee during the years when others did not.

Knight said the proposed contracts are being sent to each participating municipality. The city of Portage is not included because it has its own animal control services and relies on the Humane Society of Hobart rather than the county animal shelter.



Participating municipalities have until Aug. 1 to decide whether to enter into an annual agreement, Knight said. Half of all proceeds collected will be directed to the Sheriff's Department and half to the animal shelter, she said.










Porter County municipalities asked to cover animal control costs
June 02, 2015 - 3:44 PM
Post Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-porter-animal-ordinance-st-0603-20150602-story.html

Municipalities in Porter County will soon be paying for animal control services provided by the county.

The Porter County Board of Commissioners, meeting Tuesday at the administration building in Valparaiso, voted to create funds to deposit money collected by the county for animal control services, with the proceeds split between the county's animal shelter and animal control, which falls under the auspices of the Porter County Sheriff's Department.

Contracts for the service had not been renegotiated since 2010 and, with the exception of one municipality, the fee has not been collected since 2011, said county attorney Betty Knight.

Animal control alone lost $125,000 in revenue over the last five years from municipalities that weren't paying the fee, said Jeff Biggs, commander of the sheriff's department. Chesterton is the only community that's been paying for the service since its contract expired, he added, at $6,076 a year.

Previously, animal control was under the direction of the shelter and money collected through the fee went there. The money will now be split between the shelter and animal control, Knight said.

Portage is not included in the mix because it has its own animal control officers and takes its animal to the Humane Society shelter in Hobart.

The one-year contracts with the municipalities take effect on Aug. 1. State statute dictates that communities provide animal control services, Knight said, and most of the county's municipalities chose to pay the county instead of providing the service themselves.

The fee will bring in $90,640 a year, with half going to animal control and half going to the shelter, said Biggs, who worked up a fee schedule based on the average number of calls for service for each community between 2010 and 2014.

"That $45,000 would pay for a new truck" for animal control, something that will be needed in the coming year, he said.

He estimates annual costs for the service to be $200,000 for animal control, then doubled that to $400,000 to cover the animal shelter's costs and used that figure to calculate the municipalities' fees.

For some communities, the amount will remain the same or go down, Knight said.

For the city of Valparaiso, Biggs said, the fee will go up from $20,150 to $63,200. Valparaiso makes up 16 percent of the calls for service, so will pay that percentage of the costs. Only the unincorporated part of the county had a higher percentage, at 64 percent.

"It's not going to cover the entire operation of the shelter" or animal control, Knight said. "It's meant to help."



The ordinance will have a second reading at the commissioners' next meeting.










Hobart Humane Society responds to social media attacks
Deborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223
Sep 24, 2013
NWI Times

HOBART | The Hobart Humane Society has been under attack — particularly in comments made recently on social media — Director Brenda Slavik said, adding that the attacks are unwarranted.

The thrust of many of the negative comments is that the shelter, located at 2054 E. Indiana 130, is against pit bulls, she said.

That's not the case, officials said.

"We don't single out any breed," Slavik said.

The shelter accepts and currently has up for adoption several pit bulls.

The shelter is careful and won't accept all pit bulls dropped off by owners who just decide they don't want the animals anymore, office manager Connie Hollar said.

But the shelter doesn't euthanize dogs based on their breed.

"We euthanize only if the animal is sick or aggressive," Slavik said.

A stray pit bull puppy brought to the shelter by a Portage resident was euthanized because it had gotten sick and its owner, when reached, never came to pick it up, Slavik said.

The shelter was founded and received its charter in 1954. It has provided animal control for Hobart since 1957 and also contracts for animal pickup with Portage and Lake Station, Slavik said.

Given their small staff of seven employees and limited funding, the shelter does its best to handle the hundreds of dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, rabbits and even guinea pigs it takes in.

The number of cats and kittens, in particular, have increased this summer with 145 kittens and 77 cats brought in during the month of June alone, the shelter reported.

"Animals are disposable to people," Slavik said.

In addition to the misconceptions perpetuated on social media, there have also been email threats sent to employees over the summer, shelter officials said.

"We worry about every animal. We don't need to worry about the crazies," Hollar said.

For information about the shelter, call (219) 942-0103.










Sheriff: Animal Shelter may reach critical mass with Portage animals
Chesterton Tribune
Posted 9/5/2013
http://chestertontribune.com/Porter%20County/sheriff_animal_shelter_may_reach.htm

Sheriff David Lain expressed personal concerns this week about the effects of the offloading of stray cats and dogs by the City of Portage’s Animal Control at the Porter County Animal Shelter on his own department, as well as the Shelter itself.

Lain said that the County’s Animal Control officers have been told on several occasions recently by Shelter staff they would have to hold an animal until space opened up at the cramped facility on Ind. 2 south of Valparaiso. The officers have had to wait for an hour or more at times before being able to unload the animals from their trucks, Lain said.

Meanwhile, Portage officials received a letter on Aug. 6, 2013, from Humane Society of Hobart saying the "temporary agreement" to house animals from Portage Animal Control "cannot go on indefinitely" as it poses a safety issue for the animals and Humane Society employees



Carol Konopacki, director of Humane Society of Hobart, said in the letter that the arrangement "has been too many years, too long," and she will consider charging the city extra fees starting in January unless Portage officials find another location to drop off their animals. She suggested that Portage build its own facility, as was discussed years ago when the agreement was made.










Humane Society wants Portage animals sent to county shelter
Post-Tribune (IN)
September 1, 2013
www.newsbank.com
PORTAGE — The Humane Society of Hobart would like to see the city of Portage take its animals to the Porter County Animal Shelter because what was supposed to be a temporary agreement between the two has stretched on too long.

“This cannot go on indefinitely,” said Carol Konopacki, the Humane Society’s treasurer and former longtime director, in a strongly worded Aug. 6 letter to Mayor Jim Snyder and other city officials.

The letter said the fees the Hobart shelter charges to the city could go up at the start of January if it doesn’t make other plans, and the shelter might stop taking bite cases.

City officials are aware of the problem and are trying to come up with a solution, said Assistant Police Chief Bill Mesich, but options are limited because other area shelters are either already at capacity or too far away.

“We’re trying to make efforts to house our animals — at least the bite cases and the criminal cases — with the Porter County shelter,” he said.

Portage has its own animal control department and takes its animals to the Hobart shelter, while the rest of Porter County relies on animal control through the Porter County Sheriff’s Department. Those animals are brought to the county shelter.

The city last signed an agreement with Hobart in January 2005, Mesich said.

The Hobart shelter has the capacity for 80 animals, though it has had 150 to 160 for much of the summer. The shelter takes in about 40 animals a month from Portage, Konopacki said. “We’re hoping they could go to Porter County.”

Mesich agreed the Hobart shelter’s largest number of animals comes from the city. He, too, hopes to be able to take more animals to the county shelter.

“That is our ultimate goal, that we would take all of our animals to the Porter County shelter, because we have no other options,” he said.

Jon Thomas, director of the Porter County Animal Shelter, said he was contacted about taking in the bite cases, but there hasn’t been any discussion about taking animals beyond that for the coming year.

His shelter has been over capacity as well, taking in 152 cats and 184 dogs in the late spring and early summer.

“It would be taxing on us. We would help as best we could, but I don’t think we could take all their animals,” he said.

The county has been considering a new shelter for some time. The Porter County Board of Commissioners earmarked $1.5 million in hospital interest proceeds for a new facility, but the request has not gone before the council because commissioners want something concrete first. An anonymous donor also has offered a considerable match for a new shelter.

The commissioners are approaching the Porter County parks board about putting a shelter at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, at Meridian Road and U.S. 6.

Mesich would like to see plans for a new shelter move forward soon.

“We would be put in a bind if we no longer have the Hobart Humane Society by the end of the year,” he said. ”We would really appreciate it if the county would move on this very quickly.”










Portage may be looking for new animal shelter
August 30, 2013
Joyce Russell
NWI Times

PORTAGE - For more than a decade, Portage has contracted with the Humane Society of Hobart to take the city's stray animals.

That relationship could be coming to an end, and that has officials urging their Porter County counterparts to move forward with the construction of a new county animal shelter.

Carol Konopacki, former director and present board member of the Hobart agency, sent a letter to the city earlier this month. The letter revolved around "bite case" dogs that had been brought to the shelter.

She also noted the relationship was never meant to be permanent.

"Many of you were not officials in the City of Portage when we agreed to house your strays. You may not be aware of this, but this arrangement was to have been temporary until you found and made other arrangements. This cannot go on indefinitely," Konopacki wrote.

She said Friday that her animal shelter can no longer afford to house the city's strays.

"The ideal situation is for them to house their own animals," she said, adding the shelter also provides the service for Lake Station and Hobart, but are also hoping to separate from Lake Station.

City Council President Sue Lynch said she has spoken to a couple Porter County Commissioners.

"I've told them whatever the city needs to do, we'll do," said Lynch, adding that if the humane society does cut off services, the city will have no place to take strays. She's been told the county shelter is too full.

"Our relationship with them is deteriorating," said Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham. "They would like us to move on. It has given us the motivation to contact the county and become a part of the county."

Stidham said the city sends 50 to 60 animals to the shelter each month.

The city pays the Hobart Humane Society somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000 a year for shelter services. The city also employs one full-time and one part-time animal control worker.

Neither Lynch nor Stidham knew for sure why Portage contracted with Hobart 10 to 15 years ago. They believe it had to do with the proximity of the Hobart shelter.

County officials have been talking about building a new animal shelter for several years. They have mentioned locations at either Sunset Hills Farm County Park or on county-owned land at Ind. 149 and Ind. 130.










'No-kill' shelters scrutinized by humane society, PETA
Post-Tribune (IN)
December 22, 2005
www.newsbank.com
Animal shelters proclaiming themselves "no-kill" facilities are the new fad in American society, but not at the Hobart Humane Society.

"They are not 'no kill' shelters," said Carol Konopacki, president of the society. "They are 'somebody-else-kill' shelters."

The fall issue of the Hobart Humane Society's newsletter devoted a page to the topic, along with an inserted letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also scornful of "no-kill" shelters.

Konopacki said three major area animal shelters have taken a "no-kill" stance and have been praised by many who think it is a humane position.

"All it means," she said, "is that they turn animals away, leaving them in the hands of people who do not want them. They are going to be turned loose or killed by someone else."

She also made the point that animals kept for long periods of time tend to become unadoptable.

Konopacki said the "no-kill" shelters deny that they turn animals away, "but they are not able to keep all the stray animals brought to them for long periods of time.

"We do not want to have to put any animal to sleep," she said, "but sometimes, it is the only humane thing to do."

Konopacki said the Hobart shelter normally has 75 to 80 animals on hand and has about 200 adoptions a month. She had no figures on how many were put to death.










Cat season crowds humane societies in summer months
Post-Tribune (IN) 
July 7, 2005
The dog days of summer may not have arrived yet, but the cat days are well under way.

Local animal shelters say their cages are overflowing with unwanted cats and kittens, part of the annual summertime influx of felines workers call "cat season."

"I don't care if you have spaces for 20 animals or if you have room for 100, you're going to be filled," said Betty Clayton, who opened the Humane Society of Northwest Indiana in Gary two years ago.

Clayton took in 54 cats in June, and has had to turn away others.

Officials at the two largest shelters in the area, humane society operations in Hobart and Munster, say they are stuck with more kittens than they can hold, and few are being adopted out.

The seasonal surge mirrors the feline reproductive cycle, as cats in summer give birth to kittens conceived in the spring mating season.

But even though shelters know cat season is an annual event, there's no way to prepare when it starts raining cats and cats, said Carol Konopacki, director of the Hobart Humane Society.

Konopacki's group, which also serves as animal control for Hobart, Merrillville and surrounding unincorporated areas, received nearly 250 cats and kittens in June alone -- double the number they see in winter months.

Because few were adopted -- and others were feral or sickly -- shelter workers had to euthanize more than half of them.

"It's cat season, and everybody wants to get rid of their cats," she said. "What do you do when you get 40 in one day and adopt out five?"

A box of 16, 2-week-old kittens was waiting on the front steps of the Humane Society Calumet Area in Munster when Executive Director Cathi Daniels arrived at work Wednesday morning.

Daniels, whose shelter is the largest no-kill shelter in the region, already has more than 100 cats in her care or in foster homes.

"We have a special. When you get one kitten (for a $75 fee), you get another one free," she said.

When shelters turn away cats, reluctant owners turn them loose -- increasing the ranks of the stray cats and further increasing the burden on local animal control officials.

Those animals fortunate enough to get a cage at a Humane Society shelter in Gary and Munster can stay, so long as they remain mentally and physically healthy, which can be difficult for animals that don't get much human contact.

With 75 volunteer "foster parents," the Munster shelter can send most of its surplus kittens to temporary homes, but that's not yet an option in Gary, Clayton said.

Budget and capacity pressures mean that each month about three or four cats -- those that are sick, psychotic or very old -- are euthanized at her shelter, she said.

"There are worse things than death for these animals," Clayton said. "It is the absolute worst thing to play God over these animals."

Owners need to spay and neuter their pets or make sure they can find homes for kittens, Konopacki said.

"People say they want to let their cat have kittens so their children can see the miracle of birth," she said.

"They should have to take them here when we put them down so they can see the miracle of death," she said.










Goat left to fend for self
Post-Tribune (IN) 
August 10, 2004
A gray goat patrols 53rd Avenue in the front yard of a boarded-up, abandoned house. He has no food, water or shelter. And now no companion.

A younger goat-sheep hybrid, that shadowed him since caretakers left both animals unfenced and abandoned in March, wandered onto the busy avenue Friday and was hit by a car.

Caring neighbors moved the carcass to a side yard. Those same neighbors have brought nourishment such as corn, oats and buckets of water to the duo for five months. No animal control agency has been willing to permanently rescue the animals.

"I've made calls to the Hobart Humane Society. They can't do anything because it's livestock," a female neighbor who would only identify herself as Mrs. Watkins said.

"DNR bought out the older couple who used to live here. The couple took their cows, but left the two goats behind -- when it was still cold out. Now one's been hit by a car. It's a shame. He's lost his buddy and I don't want him to get hit too."

Carol Konpacki, Humane Society of Hobart director, said they can legally transport only dogs and cats in their vehicles.

Humane Society manager Connie Hollar said she will see if a Wheeler goat farmer will agree to take the animal. However, other rescues might soon be on the way.

Betty Clayton, director of the Humane Society of Northwest Indiana, hopes to rope the goat and use her SUV to transport him to Critter Crossing in Lake Zurich, Ill.











Humane Society knows how to be kind to animals
Post-Tribune (IN) 
April 30, 1999
The Hobart Humane Society will mark the start of "Be Kind to Animals Week" by hosting an two-day open house this weekend.

"We want people to come and see our place and see how we take care of the animals," said Carol Konopacki, director of the Humane Society, which for more than four decades has taken in an endless stream of stray animals and unwanted pets.

On any given day Konopacki and her assistants care for as many as 115 animals - from stray cats and dogs to the more exotic pot-bellied pig.

"We get bunnies, ferrets, gerbils and even, iguanas. One day somebody brought in a goat," said Konopacki, who has managed the animal shelter at 2054 E. Indiana 130 for 15 years.

"We take just about anything except for snakes. Nobody here wants to take care of snakes," she said of nine-member staff.

The shelter underwent a $35,000 facelift late last year to expand office space and give visitors more space to interact with pets they might adopt.

"Most people still want kittens and puppies, but a growing number of people are willing to adopt adult animals," Konopacki said.

She said 70 percent of the pets brought to the humane society kennels in February and March were adopted.

Prospective pet owners are asked to pay a $70 fee to cover the cost of having puppies and kittens vaccinated. A $45 fee is requested to have adult felines and canines spayed or neutered.

The Humane Society is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.










Treatment of pet far from humane
Post-Tribune (IN) 
July 19, 1998
For years our family has avidly supported the humane care of animals, either monetarily or verbally. But a recent experience has certainly led us to question the true motivation of some agencies as well as local government representatives.

Following is the story of our loss: On May 13, I had our family pet - Katy, a wonderful 4-year-beagle outside on a leash. I let go of the leash to do something; I became involved and Katy wandered off. She had done this a few weeks before but returned within a couple hours.

The following morning Katy still had not returned. My daughter contacted New Chicago police, who in turn directed us to the Lake Station mayor's office, informing us of the animal control officer that works out of that office.

We live on the border of three towns and were not sure who to contact. Living in a mobile home park, we contacted that office also. In each call we gave a description of Katy, including a small obvious growth she had on top of her head. We also left our name and phone number.

We called the Hammond Humane Society to see if she was reported. We originally purchased Katy from them and she wore her original ID tag. We called the Hobart Humane Society, also giving a complete description. We were told there was a female beagle there, so my daughter drove over to see if it was Katy. It was not.

The next morning, I received a call from the Hobart Humane Society saying they had Katy but were sorry to say they had to put her to sleep. The Lake Station animal control officer stated she thought Katy had parvo, therefore they had no choice. I asked: "Why did no one call us? You had a complete description and phone numbers, as well the fact my daughter had made a trip there just the day before to see if another beagle was her?" Again, I was told she had parvo.

I went immediately and picked up Katy's body, expressing how upset we were that we were not contacted so we would have the chance to take her to a veterinarian. I left the shelter and went to a local veterinarian who performed an autopsy for me to determine if Katy was sick. His findings: "I found no pathology on limited post-mortem."

In disbelief, my daughter contacted the Hammond Humane Society making them aware of the outcome. They were incredulous and did not understand why we were not contacted, for they had been called by the Hobart Humane Society inquiring about the owner of Katy. When we started to question everyone involved, we were given one story after the next. That included the Lake Station mayor's secretary, who said the animal control officer called off sick on Friday. However, we have a copy of a surrender order from Hobart Humane Society which she signed on May 15, 1998, stating Katy was ill with parvo.

Our conclusion: It appears a few very unprofessional, unqualified, self-appointed executioners made a diagnosis and decided on their own that our family pet should be destroyed. Why they did not call is beyond us. As my son placed Katy in her grave, our little granddaughter began to laboriously scoop up earth with her bare hands and scatter it over the body. Moved from the heart to do her part, this little 5-year-old, I believe, demonstrated the true meaning of humane.

John and Barbara Stevens
Hobart










Couple claims Hobart Humane Society treated dogs inhumane
Post-Tribune (IN) 
June 20, 1997
Dan and Tawny Harkins say the Hobart Humane Society violated the public's trust when it put a stray collie mix and her 11 pups to sleep after refusing to let the dogs be treated by a veterinarian.

"We thought they would care for the dogs and even find a home for them. But they failed us," steelworker Dan Harkins said.

On Wednesday they urged the Hobart City Council to reconsider a $42,000 contract the city has with the animal shelter.

While the city does not have direct control over the not-for-profit animal shelter, Mayor Linda Buzinec and the council asked Code Enforcement Officer Jerry Hicks to investigate the incident.

City Attorney John Bushemi was also asked by the council to review any statutes governing the treatment of animals.

"The city may not have direct jurisdiction over us but anything the mayor or police department asks us to do, we do," Carol Konopacki, director of the humane society, said.

Konopacki described the mother dog as vicious and said it was not released because the not-for-profit group would be liable if it bit Harkins.

"It was a feral dog," Konopacki said. "And it was euthanized on May 30 after it was found to have heartworms and still was not socialized."

Konopacki said the puppies were sick, too. Two died of natural causes.

Tawny Harkins cried as she told the council how animal control officers allegedly placed a noose around the mother dog's neck and dragged her over a lawn mower, across the yard and then threw her into the back of a van.

Tawny Harkins said she called the humane society to pick up the strays on May 18 after housing overnight in a shed near her home at 3883 Liverpool Road.

She told the council she visited the shelter the next day and when she noticed that the adult dog was injured, Harkins said, she offered to have it treated by a vet.

Her offer was refused and 11 days later the dogs were put to death.

"It seems that no one is governing the humane society and they have no one to answer to," Tawny Harkins said.

Hicks met with Konopacki Thursday to review shelter operations. He said he also plans to meet with the Harkins.










Shelter fights back 
Staff is tired of burglaries
Post-Tribune (IN) 
June 24, 1990
The Hobart Humane Society is installing a security system after being hit by three burglaries in three months.

Whoever broke into the building didn't steal items of immense value, said Director Carol Konopacki. But the burglaries created a feeling of vulnerability which did not exist before among the staff, she said.

The amount of money taken in all three burglaries, estimates Konopacki, is between $150 and $200.

The cash, some of which was in a donation receptacle near the front desk, was designated for such needs as pet food.

Also taken was a clock, along with leashes and collars.

The theft which most concerns the staff, Konopacki said, is that of a puppy, an 8-week-old male brown and white collie-lab.

Konopacki said she believes the burglaries were committed by youths, since typewriters and other items worth more than things stolen were left behind. Also, the timing of the burglaries points to youths, the director reported.

She said the first two burglaries, which occurred within a week of each other, happened when students would be out of school due to spring break. The third burglary occurred shortly after school was out for the year, she said.

The humane society was burglarized about seven years ago, and whoever broke in at that time went after files and nothing else. Konopacki guesses that burglary was committed by a disgruntled ex-employee.

After the latest burglaries, and especially after the theft of an animal, the staff has become afraid another will occur.

"Every time the phone rings at my house on Saturday morning, I think, 'Oh no, we got hit again,' " Konopacki said. "When we come to work every day now we look around to see if anything is missing."

"I hope whoever took the puppy didn't just dump it somewhere," she said.

She said the humane society staff must stretch every dollar.

Konopacki said she clips coupons from newspapers donated for use as bedding and added she knows the prices of brands of pet foods in every supermarket in and near Hobart.

"A 50 cent coupon doesn't seem like much, but those dollars add up," she said.

Although the humane society building on Indiana 130 is on the fringe of Hobart and is in an area where a burglar might easily operate, Konopacki said she and the rest of the staff felt safe until now.










Somebody got your goat?
Check Hobart Shelter
Post-Tribune (IN) 
November 23, 1989
There was an extra mouth to feed in Jean Rakoczy's horse pasture Monday night.

"He was out there with the horses," said Rakoczy. "All of a sudden it came loping across the door."

"It" was a black female goat with a white spot on its head. A dog collar surrounded its neck and a rope hung from the collar. Rakoczy described the goat as scared and skittish.

"It took 45 minutes for my husband and I to catch it," said Rakoczy. ''We put it in a stall for the night. She was definitely one scared little animal. I don't know what she went through but she wouldn't come to us."

Rakoczy, who was aided by husband John, felt they should corral the goat so it wouldn't injure itself dragging the rope through the woods.

The Rakoczys were able to coax the goat into a stall with oats.

The goat's adventures continued on Tuesday when Rakoczy loaded it into her Chevy Suburban along with her three elementary-age children.

"She didn't do too badly in the Suburban," Rakoczy said. "The problem was getting her into it."

First stop was St. Bridget's Catholic School in Hobart where many of the students got a glimpse of the goat.

Next, the goat was dropped off at the Humane Society of Hobart on Indiana 130. It was still there Wednesday afternoon.

"This is the first goat we've had in my five years here," said shelter employee Brenda Soabik. "We've been feeding it rabbit food, apples and carrots."

Soabik said if it's not claimed, the goat would be available for adoption on Sunday.










Citizens can help alleviate problem of stays
Post-Tribune (IN) 
August 22, 1987
In reference to strays injured in Gary:
The Gary Pound truck being out of commission is no excuse for an injured animal not being picked up immediately. Hobart Humane Society's van is frequently down. When we get an "injured" call, we go immediately. No van, we use our personal cars. Lake County Animal Control has done the same.

Hopefully the Post-Tribune articles and photos will enrage more people than the same few who over and over try to fight the animal injustices in Gary.

The pound doesn't have the same priorities as the Hobart Humane Society, which also does animal control for Hobart. Our priority policy is: No. 1 is always an injured animal, 2) a dog in a school yard, 3) bite case, 4) confined stray (before it's set loose), 5) stray, 6) DOA, 7) complaints.

Until the Gary Pound changes its policy and upgrades its service, there are things the citizens can do to help many of the injured strays.

Be a responsible pet owner. The strays come from someone's home. If you no longer want your cat or dog, turn it in to your local shelter or animal control. Someone may want the animal.

Don't wait a week or even one day to report your lost pet. The Hobart Humane Society keeps a lost and found file, containing descriptions of hundreds of cats and dogs. Depending on the facility, animals are kept 3-5 days before being put up for adoption or euthanized. Call all shelters and animal controls in Lake and Porter counties. Some animals travel very far and fast. Put posters in supermarkets, the post office, laundromats, veterinarians's offices, anywhere people permit.

Offer a small reward to children in the area for information about pets. Kids are outside a lot and see much we don't see. Run ads in your local paper and the major paper in your area.

Visit the shelters and animal control centers every few days. Our descriptions may vary from yours.

Don't give up. Dogs and cats have been gone weeks, even months, and then been turned in to us. A woman lost her dog four months ago - never reported it lost to us - came in to adopt a pup and found her dog in our kennel. The dog had been with us five weeks.

Do all you can to prevent your pet from becoming a "lost" statistic. Collar it with city and/or rabies tags. The animal can then be united with its owner immediately. Hobart alone took in 6,001 animals in 1986; 966 were strays. Only 168 were redeemed. Who lost the other 800?

Spay or neuter your cat or dog. A female in heat will stray looking for a male. Males will break chains, windows and gates to get at a female in heat. Packs result. Injured animals. Injured children. Lastly, unwanted litters.

Carol Konopacki, supervisor
Humane Society of Hobart Inc.










Humans to blame for pet deaths, say Shelter officials
Thousands euthanized each year
Post-Tribune (IN) 
February 5, 1987
Charlie, a friendly black and white tomcat with a penchant for "people" food like roast beef and chicken, purrs with pleasure when his soft, silky coat is stroked by visitors to his cage at the Hobart Humane Society.

Adopted as a Christmas gift, the long-haired cat was brought back to the humane society on New Year's Eve.

His only crime: "Those who adopted him told us he was 'too affectionate'," said Carol Konopacki, Hobart Humane Society supervisor.

Fortunately for Charlie, the odds of the healthy feline finding a permanent home are stacked in his favor.

"They (the animals) stay here until they are adopted if they remain healthy," added Konopacki.

But that's not the case for many homeless animals. Although the adoption policies and procedures at humane societies and shelters differ throughout Northwest Indiana, the fact remains: Thousands of the animals, including those who are old, sick or just not wanted by their owners for a variety of reasons, will be "put to sleep" this year. In more blunt terms, they will be killed - either through a lethal injection or by placing them in a special decompression chamber that removes oxygen from the air.

And most shelter officials agree that the number of stray or unwanted animals being brought in is on the rise, possibly because of the high number of jobless people throughout Northwest Indiana.

Kay Kuntz, head of the Gary-based Lakeshore Humane Society, said emotions run high there most days, especially when a beloved pet that the family can't afford to care for anymore is brought in.

"People, men and women both, will cry when they bring the animals to the door, but they explain that they had to choose between their kids or their animals going hungry. Then the kids start crying because they have to give little Suzy (the pet) up," said Kuntz, adding, "We cry and pray a lot around here."

Kuntz said that the poor state of the economy not only means more animals brought in, it also means fewer adoptions.

Although the cost to adopt is low there - about $10 for cats and dogs - there often just isn't enough money in the family budget these days to feed and care for a pet, said Kuntz.

The Lakeshore Humane Society, which accepts strays from all over Northwest Indiana, has a reputation as a place that will make a good attempt, up to several months, to adopt healthy animals instead of putting them to sleep, said Kuntz.

"We have no set cutoff time as long as they are healthy and we have the room," she said. "You'd have to have a building the size of the Empire State Building to keep them all, but we do give them a fair shake." She noted the humane society has a capacity for about 50 animals, depending on their size.

Kuntz added, "But it still costs money to feed, care for and house the animals, and we can't keep them forever. Financially we receive nothing from the city (of Gary) even though the biggest portion come from there."

Instead, the humane society relies on donations and fund-raisers such as the Shaggy Dog Ball, an annual event usually held in Merrillville, to keep it financially afloat, said Kuntz.

Donna Smith, director of Porter County Animal Control, handles an average of 300-500 animals per month.

And the numbers are on the rise, Smith said. In 1985 her shelter handled 3,596, while in 1986 that figure was 3,755.

Smith calls her shelter's adoption rates "very good." In November, for instance 79 were adopted versus 128 killed. The average stay of most cats and dogs is about five to seven days before they would be "put down or put to sleep," she said.

"I kill animals, yes, unfortunately," said Smith, adding, "I would rather be doing it to their owners. It's not their (the animals') fault."

Irresponsible people who let their pets run loose and who don't have them neutered, thereby producing even more unwanted animals, are the ones to blame for the increase in strays, said Smith.

"This shelter is a product of people's irresponsible behavior. They (the people) have created the demand. If we got to the point where the shelter wasn't needed and we could level it, I'd be thrilled," Smith added.

Neutering of animals is encouraged at the Porter County shelter by rebating a portion of the adoption fee to those who later show certification from a vet.

At the Lake County Animal Control site at Crown Point, neutering is required. "We have a form and they (those adopting) must take it to their vet to verify the procedure has been done and then they must bring the form back to us," said Debra Rafacz, Lake County animal control director. If more people would take responsibility for their pets, she said, it would cut down on "hundreds of thousands of unwanted animals."

She added that too many people believe that pets should be allowed to run around at will and to reproduce in the same manner. "They see it (reproduction) as an act of life. But these are domestic animals and they need supervising."

In addition, animals that are altered are generally healthier and not as aggressive. "They (altered animals) make much better pets and companions," said Rafacz.

Although there is no set cutoff when animals are killed at Lake County Animal Control, Rafacz said those strays that are "healthy and neutered would be the last to go."

The age of the animal, its temperament and health are all taken into consideration before an animal is killed by injection.

Although Rafacz was not able to provide figures on the numbers brought into the shelter in 1986, this past year did seem somewhat busier, she said.

"But I really haven't noticed a big surge," she added.

Konopacki of the Hobart Humane Society perhaps best put into words the attitude at Northwest Indiana animal shelters.

Konopacki, who brought in her own 15-year-old dog to have it put to sleep in the Euthanaire, the brand name of the decompression chamber used there, said animals "are handled lovingly and will not suffer."

She said those who are against euthanasia methods used by humane societies and shelters should "come down and work there for awhile."

"They (those who complain) shouldn't be against us. They should complain instead about those who let their animals run loose, mate and get hit."

Animals adopted, euthanized in '86 

SHELTER                ADOPTED                EUTHANIZED
Porter County          *1,013                        **2,152
Animal Control

Lake County            **284                         ***2,942
Animal Control

Hobart                         1,369                           3,039
Humane Society

*Includes 30 assorted animals other than cats and dogs.

**Includes 347 owner requests.

***1985 figures.


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