Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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November 21st, 2014

Support Catskill Animal Rescue

One woman has set her life’s mission to create a facility in Sullivan County to house animals involved in seizure, cruelty, or abandonment along with a program to spray or neuter our strays.

Joanne Gerow who serves as a Constable/Animal Control Officer for many of our municipalities has formed Catskill Animal Rescue, Inc. to address the critical lack of resources and services available in Sullivan County.

I am honored to be working with Gerow on her goals which will ultimately include shelter, adoption, low cost spay/neuter, assistance to the elderly, public education and community services pertaining to Sullivan County’s animals.

Gerow says the ultimate goal is to “combine resources within the municipalities of Sullivan County, local Law Enforcement agencies and County Government (mandated under NYS law to maintain specific services) to Law Enforcement agencies and County Government (mandated under NYS law to maintain specific services) to provide a self- sustaining and all inclusive Animal Care and Control resource for our community.”

Her commitment and dedication to do something about our stray animal population warrants all of our attention and support. I have seen Joanne in action firsthand, and she is one remarkable woman.

Gerow has been working around the clock to get the financing needed to open the facility. She has been busy meeting with grant writers, the Sullivan County Legislature, benefactors, and community leaders about the much needed project.

A raffle is even being held on November 30, 2014 to assist in fundraising. Tickets which are $2 or three for $5 can be purchased throughout Sullivan County including Kristt and Company in Monticello and the Town of Liberty Clerk’s Office.

The drawing will be videotaped and posted on Facebook. Prizes include a laptop and a $100 gift certificate from Kristt and Company.

Everyone who knows Joanne has nothing but praise for her dedication and commitment to our animals.

Amy Kristt who serves on the Board of Catskill Animal Rescue told me that “Joanne Gerow brings an unparalleled knowledge of our community, the law and what is needed. As a board member, I look forward to working with her to take Catskill Animal Rescue, Inc. from its infancy stage to a well- developed, multi- faceted rescue, devoted to the comfort and well- being of the animals of Sullivan County. They deserve nothing less. I have faith that the members of our communities will step up to the plate to help make CARE what the animal in our County deserve. The future is looking very bright and I am confident we will have great success.”

District Attorney Jim Farrell who works closely with Gerow told me “Joanne Gerow is a credit to law enforcement in the area of animal abuse. She truly cares about her work and puts 100% in everything she does. My office will continue to work closely with her on these types of cases to make sure animal abusers are held accountable. I fully support her initiative to create a centralized animal facility to serve our county as it will only enhance our ability to protect animals that have been abused and maltreated.”

Legislator Cora Edwards, who heads the legislature’s Public Safety and Law Enforcement Committee, called Gerow is a “true public servant for Sullivan County and the municipalities she covers.”

Edwards said Gerow has “taken on a difficult, thankless task in many ways, and done it with professionalism and a compassionate heart. That is a winning combination – not just for the animals but also for the children and adults she encounters. We are fortunate to have someone like Joanne spearheading the effort for an animal sanctuary – a public/private partnership in the best sense – in our County. It is obvious from all the hard work Joanne has put in that there is widespread support for these efforts.”

Town of Liberty Supervisor Charlie Barbuti added, “Joanne has always done a great job as dog control officer for the town, but she is really stepping up in creating a plan to address the community’s animal control issues. I think we should all step up and support her efforts to create a clean, humane shelter for all our furry friends.”

I asked Joanne Gerow to tell us about herself and her mission. Here are her words:

My name is Joanne Gerow. I live on small horse farm in Swan Lake since 1986. An avid animal lover and enthusiast from birth, my life has always involved animals. I have served on the Board of the SC SPCA and was a cruelty investigator for several years. Because of internal conflict within the organization, I resigned. I continued helping animals in need in Sullivan County by fostering and rehoming.

In 2003, I was hired by the Town of Liberty and have served fewer than 4 Town Supervisors as Town of Liberty Constable and Dog Control Officer. I am trained in Animal Cruelty investigation, chemical capture and have New York State Peace Officer Status in addition to my duties as Dog Control Officer.

In 2012, I was hired by Fallsburg Police Department as Animal Control Officer and currently have Peace Officer Status pending to also address animal cruelty in Fallsburg. I have served as Vice President of the Associated Dog Clubs of New York and serve as an American Kennel Club Judge around the world in my spare time. I serve on the Town of Liberty Democratic Committee and volunteer with Swan Lake Renaissance. In 2010, I rewrote the Dog code for the Town of Liberty, adding an entire section to address animal welfare.

This year, I researched and developed an innovative Cat Code for the Town of Fallsburg which was recently adopted by the board. I have organized and written several inter-municipal agreements between municipalities including the active contract with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department. To date, I have handled literally hundreds of animals for the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department, including feral pigs, cats, dogs, horses, and goats, to name a few. I oversee the seizure of all animals in the Towns of Liberty, Fallsburg and Rockland.

Most recently, I have created a Non – Profit known as Catskill Animal Rescue, Inc.

I would like to give you a brief synopsis of the structure of Animal Care and Control in the County.

We have 15 municipalities mandated by NYS Ag and Markets law, Article 7 to provide Dog Control to the communities. Article 7 is strictly Dog Control and does not involve animal welfare. It covers dogs running at large, licensing and enforcement of municipal code pertaining to dogs. Enforcement requires an officer, equipment, a vehicle, a holding facility and disposition after the mandated 5 day holding period. In addition, our DCOs are responsible for bringing forth dangerous dog proceedings and assisting Public Health with rabies quarantines. Some towns do have Animal Control Officers, but responsibilities outside of dogs are very vague and usually not enforced.

All Law Enforcement Agencies in our county are mandated by NYS Ag and Markets Law, Article 26, Animal Cruelty to address animal cruelty and animal welfare. This also requires seizure, care and disposition of animals.

NONE of our municipalities have an appropriate or modern facility for housing animals. In fact, many have no facility. I was recently approached by Forestburg to board their animals. Rockland and Fallsburg board with Liberty, Thompson has “weather” permitting chain link runs at their water treatment facility, while winter months require boarding at vet facilities and Middletown Humane Society at great expense. The Liberty “facility” is a modified tractor trailer body made with scrap material by the BOCES students over 30 years ago. It is rodent infested, unsanitary and in fact dangerous.

FPD, Liberty PD and the Sheriff’s Department are currently serviced by me, all other agencies scramble when confronted with animal cruelty. I have assisted MPD on several occasions with large amounts of animals in need of seizure, transportation and disposition because they have no viable method to address these situations. It is obscene to even imagine animal cruelty going unaddressed because a law enforcement agency has no resources.

Under both of these Articles, when the initial “seizure” phase is complete, we move into the disposition phase which includes redemption by the owner, adoption, and surrender to a rescue or euthanasia.

At this phase, most Counties contract with a local shelter or rescue. A “surrender” fee is paid and the dog is transferred to the shelter for evaluation, spay/neuter and adoption. As you are all aware, our County has NO shelter. The SC SPCA was terminated by the County in 2006 for fraudulent billing practices and has since terminated every municipal contract.

I have reached out to the organization on many occasions without success. The refusal of this organization to function as a shelter dedicated to its community has resulted in a critical lack of services. Most all animals are taken out of County, many to the Middletown Humane Society. It has forced DCOs to exercise a disproportionate rate of euthanasia. In addition, MHS has now designated itself as a “No Kill” Shelter which creates a whole new can of worms. NO KILL

The term No Kill when applied to an animal shelter has varying definition and application. In most cases, it can NOT be construed in the literal sense of the term. The most commonly accepted definition would be the sustenance of any healthy or treatable animal, with euthanasia reserved for terminally ill or untreatable animals. The addressing of vicious and dangerous animals can vary from organization to organization. For many Non-Profit shelters, it is a term conducive to grants, public support and donations and has become increasingly popular in recent years. When a shelter providing municipal services designates itself as NO KILL, their intakes decrease. With kennel space limited, healthy, adoptable municipal dogs are refused while hard to adopt animals take up kennel spaces for months and even years with VERY little possibility of adoption.

Animal Care and Control and Shelters are inextricably connected. We are all deeply affected by the policies and actions of each other. We are ALL responsible for what happens to every animal in our community. When one organization refuses a dog from a DCO and that DCO is forced to euthanize a beautiful young dog that would be a loving companion and family member, even though they do not have the dog in their possession, THEY DO HOLD RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT’S FATE. It is a ripple effect and it cannot be ignored.

I cannot emphasize enough the simple fact that there are too many animals and too few resources. There are CLEARLY NOT ENOUGH HOMES to place every dog. Out of necessity, I have come to a personal policy pertaining to the dogs I take in. If there is ANY issue of aggression, a bite history or dangerous behavior, the dog is euthanized.

After many years, I understand. I understand that not all dogs are appropriate for adoption. I all too frequently have seen the results of giving an aggressive dog “one more chance”. And I am NOT willing to challenge the safety of a family or a child for the sake of a troubled dog. HOWEVER, he most colossal part of my decision making process is the fact that with limited resource, the housing of a vicious dog could mean the death of a perfectly social, adoptable dog. When push comes to shove, there has to be a triage my previous statement, we are all in this together, intrinsically woven and everything we do as a part effects the results as a whole. And one more thing….the quality of the adoptive home is of the utmost importance. We cannot haphazardly place animals to avoid euthanasia with no regard for quality of life. Our goal for the future will be to LOWER our euthanasia’s by providing education, spay and neuter. We also hope to create programs to rehabilitate and retrain which in turn will also lower euthanasia’s.

Currently in Sullivan County, we have very little communication, cooperation and organization between the municipalities, the County, Officials, law enforcement AND our residents! The lack of communication results in poor services, duplication, waste and inefficiency. The lack of a secondary shelter results in our municipalities contracting out of County for animal services and surrenders, resulting in thousands of dollars being funneled out of the County. CLEARLY, this is money that should be staying in Sullivan County!

So what is the answer? Quite obviously, keys are organization, cooperation and commitment between governments, residents and law enforcement.

The physical answer to our problem is again, obvious. We need an appropriate facility.

This brings me to Hurricane Katrina:

In 2005, post Hurricane Katrina, I traveled to Gautier Mississippi to do Animal Rescue in the Gulf Coast. Our base was the Jackson County Animal Shelter/Gulf Coast SPCA. Yes, a multi-functional facility housing all phases of Animal Care and Control. This was certainly not an affluent area. The facility was modest, yet organized and efficient, running like a well- oiled machine.

It created continuity for officials, employees and residents. Everyone in the County knew where to take a found dog, where to look for a lost dog, where to go to adopt an animal, where to go to donate money, where to go to volunteer, where to apply Community Service and where to go for any information pertaining to animals. Licensing, cruelty complaints, Senior citizen support, education….. I was advised that even the Town Codes and DCO procedures are the same! I imagine a Sullivan County Animal Shelter in conjunction with Catskill Animal Rescue, Inc.

I am currently developing a Proposal with Heinrich Strauch, Director of the Liberty CDC for presentation. This proposal requires a long term sustainability and viable support. There is no question, based on current town budgets, that a new facility built to function efficiently while providing modern and humane housing for our animals and improved municipal dog control services would be sustainable. I believe it could even create the possibility for reduction of some of our town Dog Control Contractual Budgets and create OUR eligibility for Consolidation of Services Grants. A Central Facility will provide necessary services to our Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department, our municipal police agencies and the District Attorney’s office to facilitate investigation, enforcement and prosecution of Animal Cruelty Laws.

Catskill Animal Rescue, Inc. will be the answer to the secondary phase of seizure. CARE will provide services comparable to those currently provided by the MHS and those that SHOULD be provided by the SC SPCA. Catskill Animal Rescue, Inc will work directly in conjunction with the proposed County facility. For the residents of our community, it would create an unprecedented organization of animal resources with a one stop shopping for any service involving Animal Care and Control in Sullivan County.

I currently have the support of the Sullivan County District Attorney, Jim Farrell, the Sullivan County Public Safety Committee and the Legislature in addition to the Board of Supervisors. However, a project like this requires the support of the community.

Although we are in the infancy stages, I reach out today to you and ask for a support. We are a community that is very involved with animals from our family pets, to our indigenous wildlife, our dairy and horse farms, our 4-H clubs, the Monticello Kennel Club and an array of animal based businesses and rescues. It is high time the residents of Sullivan County let our politicians and officials know that we are not going to continue to tolerate substandard care, neglect of animals and lack of proper services.

Thank you Joanne Gerow for all you do. I know we will be hearing a lot more about Catskill Animal Rescue.
For more information – Please Contact Joanne Gerow at (845) 866-3366, or Amy Kristt at (845) 866-2203.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in the Sullivan County Post

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