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Stratford Animal Control Advocate Responds to Naysayers

Stratford Animal Rescue Society member Marjean O'Malley addresses some issues raised in last week's budget hearing story on Stratford Animal Control's proposed budget for next year.

During a public hearing last week on the , several members of the Stratford Animal Rescue Society (STARS) requested that the town add about $17,000 to Stratford Animal Control's budget.

"Animal control is doing more with less," Marjean O'Malley said at the hearing.

A healthy chunk of the $17,600 requested increase -- about $14,100 -- would be for part-time salaries.

The article on the hearing can be . As of April 24, it had 36 comments, some of which prompted STARS member Marjean O'Malley to write the following response.

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By Marjean O'Malley

In response to some questions, concerns, and "interesting" comments, please allow me to clarify some points.

Why are impound numbers higher here than the other towns?

There would be several factors affecting this number. Most animals are picked up roaming. First, Stratford is the lowest per capita municipality in Fairfield County that is not a city and most likely has the most diverse socioeconomic makeup among them as well.

We may be hit harder economically for numerous reason causing [people] to abandon their pets. Stratford is a direct neighbor to a major [city], there is not a wall between Bridgeport and Stratford. Animals most certainly possibly roam across the "border" and there is no way to identify them as from originating     here or not and is just a fact of our town's location.

We are fortunate to have Animal Control Officers that respond to calls and make every effort to retrieve these animals, which is just one of their MANY responsibilities in serving residents. Please note animals are also retrieved from being tied to fences, etc. throughout our town as well as found in plastic storage containers with lids on, taped into boxes, and multiple animals stuffed into carriers meant for one animal.

They are found starved, matted, ill, beaten, with broken bones and open wounds. Yes, these are the actions of some who live among us in Stratford when they find they no longer want their "pet" for a multitude of reasons.

In reponse to: 'Just shoot the nuisances'

Really? Frankly, the lack of empathy here and cruel tone of this statement is appalling at best. Tens of thousands of dollars to continue care or provide all other veterinary care is payed for by S.T.A.R.S. year-round fundraising and donations from residents and others from all over and businesses as well.

Each animal is also spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped before leaving for a new home. This is why our adoption program is so successful with animals adopted in an average of 2 weeks. This costs the town nothing.

Did you know it would cost Stratford upwards of $65,000 per year to euthanize rather than doing what is presently done at NO COST to the town while re-homing them?

What takes place with support from residents, including children and businesses in conjunction with S.T.A.R.S. and Animal Control has shown that working together we can do the right thing for these animals. What happens here shows how Stratford Animal Control is a fine example to all municipalities on how things should be done all the while saving the town money.

By the way, for the record, shooting them is illegal and is a felony under state statutes.

In response to: The '77 percent' increase to part-time help

What a large percentage, but let's deal in absolute dollars and facts.  

The new facility has a 400 percent greater capacity. This was based on actual statistics for our town over years and a feasibility study as well. In fact, national guidelines call for 5 or 6 full-time ACO's based on our town's number of calls out on the road and the animals impounded.

We know times are tough, and no one has asked for additional full-time officers. There are presently 2 part-time positions, 1 for 19 hours to cover 5 days a week and the other for 8 hours to cover 2 days a week. It takes 8 hours a day to     clean.    

The request made to add two additional positions that are the same as these to fill the void is at a cost of $14,040. Cleaning animal housing areas is not just scooping poop and hosing it off. There are special cleaners and a specific protocol to be used to prevent the spread of disease.  

If these positions are not funded in the new budget and approved by Mayor Harkins then this pulls the ACO's off the road, and away from the phone to clean. This leaves them unable to respond to calls and perform their many duties for half of every day. Would we pull police officers off the road to clean the police department every day?  

Trained personnel in Public Safety have a job to do, and this would put residents at risk in many types of situations. These two positions are the most effective way to provide adequate coverage. (If cleaning leads to OT, which it could, then the cost is likely threefold per hour.) This is a valid and fiscally responsible request. This is minimal staffing.

Food

The budget to feed hundreds of animals each year has been $1,200 per year. The animals have been fed by donated food year after year. Individuals dropping food off, business, civic groups holding food drives and the ones that I love the most -- children opting for food donations rather than gifts at their own birthday parties -- and classroom and scout food drives. Food items valued at up to $30,000 per year at NO COST TO THE TOWN.

This is why the request for the $10,000 to be moved to a line item where it is really necessary. Doesn't this make sense?

In response to: Why no children as volunteers?

The prior facility was not conducive to permitting programs for children due to a lack of space and presently it is town policy that all volunteers be at least 18 years of age.

The new facility is designed in a way for programs like this to happen. Animal Control and S.T.A.R.S. do indeed want to include family units as volunteers. Just give us some time.   

We have started a series of Humane Education programs for children. They are broken down into groups by age and topic. These have been announced in the media and information is available on our website.

By the way, these are one of the many things done by volunteers, including supplies. We all feel that working with and educating children of all ages is greatly important. This just takes some time to ensure programs are started with proper consideration and research before beginning. We anticipate a time when all that want to help or learn can be accommodated and that is our goal.

Please note all volunteers complete a mandatory training to ensuring their safety and that of the animals.

The animal control facility was built to serve the needs of Stratford and only Stratford. At no time was it ever to include animals from any other municipality.

This "information." provided by someone that is not a resident of Stratford, is incorrect.  

I do happen to know for a fact that when Bridgeport began their new facility at the old dog track kennel buildings that the then mayor of Bridgeport had publicly mentioned that other buildings could possibly be used by area towns. That was before he was informed that only municipalities much smaller than the towns surrounding Bridgeport can have "regional" shelters per state guidelines and statutes. This has absolutely no bearing on Stratford Animal Control nor the animals impounded there.

The average adoption time of an animal here is 2 weeks

Some shorter, some take longer, but this is able to be accomplished because of volunteers and supporters that provide funds by donation or attending our many fundraisers. It is successful because volunteers spend so much of their time with the animals and working on these fundraisers. Successful because people do care and show that by their donations and support that allow us to provide for these animals and to spay/neuter, vaccinate, and microchip them. People come from far and wide to adopt from here because of these efforts made on the animals behalf.

Animals that are impounded are there because of the actions of someone within our community. Whether abandoned, roaming, seized for cruelty/neglect, it is all at the hands of a person.

The public support for S.T.A.R.S. and Animal Control, reflects that people truly care in how much we are able to do for them. Even the kids get it, as proven by their actions. Their support speaks volumes to the fact that people appreciate and expect the right thing to be done.  

All this is done while allowing Animal Control to do the best they can for residents in responding to their various needs and circumstances and ensuring local and state statutes are enforced. An Animal Control Officer is not a "dog catcher." They have a huge amount of responsibilities to deal with.

Why set Animal Control up for unavoidable budget overages for basic needs by providing a budget with a lack of funds and staffing?

Isn't it wiser, and more fiscally responsible to grant the small additional amount of $17,600, approve part-time positions totaling 27 hrs a week (included in this figure), and meet their needs?

To build a facility after recognizing it was required and not provide the minimum needed for it to function does not make sense.  

Volunteers and supporters have stepped up yearly to the growing needs here and will continue. The actual dollar amount needed is truly small in comparison to the cost of lesser coverage of the needs of Stratford residents, even a possible end to the adoption of  animals which I once again remind everyone has been costing the town nothing.  

These requests are simply about providing this new facility what it needs to function and permit Animal Control Officers to do their jobs. I have made myself available to any and every resident, Town Council member, and even the Mayor by providing a phone number to reach me. Have a question, want to know more, then just call me. I am more than happy to discuss this issue in a civil manner.

While everyone certainly has the right to voice an opinion I feel it is irresponsible for people to state things as "fact" when due diligence is not done. The budget line item amounts provided here are based on facts and need -- not a whim.  

Regards, 

Marjean O'Malley

Laurie April 25, 2012 at 11:53 AM
Thank you Marjean! It is great for everyone to know the facts.
Mike April 25, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Here is a fact that Animal Comtrol won't admit to. When they went after the Cat Lady, they set traps and traped neighborhood cats to bolster the number of cats they said they removed from the Cat lady's house. I lost my cat to one of their traps. They told me they had no traps, and didn't trap cats. I saw their traps. I just wish I saw it when my cat was in it. I will never see my cat again. His name was Cat.
RMA April 25, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Thank you for setting the record straight on some misconceptions between the original story that was changed for posting purposes and people's opinion posting because of it. Makes more sense plus I also know S.T.A.R.S. has posted the full information on their website at www.stratfordanimalrescue.com.
Jason Bagley (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 02:00 PM
RMA, I want to be clear that the only thing that was changed about the original story was the publication date. None of the story's original content was altered. Nothing was removed or added. Nothing in the story was changed since it first appeared on the site. Thanks.
Jason Bagley (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 02:03 PM
If I see that a story is receiving a lot of engagement with readers, I will changed the publication date to a more recent time so that it stays on the homepage longer.
ragamuffin April 25, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Thank you for clarifying, Marjean - and thanks to the S.T.A.R.S. community for their many hours of volunteering and fundraising for the town's animal control needs. It is especially valuable to know that while the budgeted dollars allotted for such items as food has been inadequate for some years, the volunteers and donations from the community have stepped in to fill many needs at no taxpayer's expense. This is a community of volunteers and animal control officers who know how to work within a very tight budget. Reshuffling funds, budgeting for part time help to allow officers to focus on their sworn duties rather than housekeeping, and working with donations should be considered a blessing in this town where getting efficiency and value from taxpayer dollars is key. The Town of Stratford did the most humanely responsible thing (and following state-mandated standards) by building the new facility to replace the condemned and woefully inadequate hovel on Frog Pond Lane. It's time now for the Town leadership to continue taking responsibility by budgeting the dollars needed to keep this taxpayer investment running efficiently.
Brandee LaCava April 25, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Very well written and well said Marjean! The Town of Stratford is so lucky to have such a compassionate woman as yourself on board, not only to help out, but as an adoptive parent as well! Keep on rockin! We love ya!
bpiretti April 25, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I agree Laurie! Very informative article written for all to understand. Stratford Animal Control should have the staff to run the facility more efficiently. STARS Volunteers are the best! They work very hard to raise the funds for the animals.
George E. Mulligan April 25, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Marjean, you are an excellent advocate and writer for those issues for which you and others passionately care about. I do not debate any point that you made as an advocate. - I was and am frustrated by 1. the Town's persecution of a 91 year old who was living in her own home, bothering no one, based on animal control. 2. the ostrich situation of you and ALL of the STARS members about the town's financial situation, which IF PROPERLY MANAGED, should have more FUND available to do the proper things for Animals. 3. I don't know how many STARS people work for the Town, BoE, or other Government jobs, where there are vested interests to keep money flowing to employees and families of same. This is NOT questioning the MOTIVE nor PASSION to benefit ANIMALS. 4. The complete and total LACK of CONCERN and CARE for PEOPLE who do NOT have (similar to STARS issues for animals); A) enough to EAT B) proper Shelter C) proper Health Care I challenger MARJEAN and ALL STARS supporters, especially my friend ex-Town Councilor Kim Meuse (whom I greatly respect) to CARE a little bit more and to be more outspoken and even write about the POLITICAL TRUTHS of STRATFORD. Why? FINANCIAL shell games threaten Stratford and CT. and USA into potential SUPER NOVA reaction. When STARS are hit by SUPER NOVAs, the REALITIES become clear, plain, evident, and preponderant that SINGLE ISSUE MYOPIA can be OVERWHELMED. I challenge KIM to write the TRUTHS.
Animal Lower April 25, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Now how can we pay for helpless animals when the police & firemen & education unions are milking the taxpayers with excessive 90K salaries with 120K pensions with bennies. Stratford is just an extension, of the state: bankrupt - which is an extension of the aristocrats in DC - bankrupt.
Snowy April 25, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I am so glad that the town of Stratford has such a great animal control facility. It is very important to take care of the animals, because they can't take care of themselves. The STARS volunteers are awesome. We should be grateful that we have them to help out with all the work that has to be done.
Semi Happy Resident April 25, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Marjean, I was not stating that the animals taken in were from other towns as fact. I stated that this is what I was told and if it is true then the numbers should reflect that information. In all the clarifications you made the one you still haven't addressed is what the actual time frame for the 651 animals was in your year or so. As far as my residence is concerned, no, I am not a Stratford resident any longer but then neither is your head ACO who resides in West Haven. I have stated that the increase may be needed but only when all the facts are known. For someone that is in charge of an animal rescue group I am surprised that you know so much about all the finances at the shelter and you sound more like the head ACO than the actual head ACO. You would think she would be the one clarifying the budget. You sound like you truely care and you might want to consider applying for her job when it becomes available.
Jim Ravis April 26, 2012 at 01:34 AM
I don't understand why it will take until 2013 to allow under 18 year olds to be volunteers.
Semi Happy Resident April 26, 2012 at 05:11 AM
Marjean, My own feeling is that there should be enough money in the budget to pay for the care of the animals without the need for volunteers or donations - but that would be in a perfect world. I did find it interesting that you needed to point out that I didn't live in the town and yet I never mentioned it in my comments about this budget. My telling the voters to be informed before they vote on a budget has nothing to do with residency since I would tell people anywhere to do the same. If you are requesting the budget changes instead of Rachael because she doesn't live in town then say so since she won't be affected by the tax increase if this is passed. Maybe the increase request looks better if it comes from a town resident and that is why she has been silent in these budget articles. You also might want to do what George has suggested and look at waste in the other department's budget so any surplus can be redirected to the guests at the shelter. It would also be more palatable to the taxpayers if more was being done with the same amount of money instead of having their taxes raised all the time.
George E. Mulligan April 26, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I compliment MARJEAN, STARS, and ANIMAL LOVERS. I have NO INTENT to insult any of their efforts. - Both "Barbara and I" point out there are BUDGET ISSUES which should not exist, which CAUSE HARDSHIP to ANIMALS and STARS volunteers. . "Animal Lower" points out the unfortunate truths about the economic and other hardships imposed on residents of Stratford, of CT. and of the US. - I believe problems have been intentionally caused and people have been willfully hurt. I point out that STARS and ANIMAL SHELTER SUPPORTERS prioritize the 4 LEG ANIMALS over many 2 LEG ANIMALS (Humans), who deserve FOOD, SHELTER, and HEALTH CARE. It's especially true of our VETERANS, YOUNG ADULTS, TOO MANY SENIORS, and TOO MANY FAMILIES / INDIVIDUALS in middle & lower income levels. - I agree with the sentiments of "SNOWY" and other supporters. - I agree with "Mr. Ravis." - MARJEAN and STARS may I ask you to reply to this question: > If constructive criticisms help to improve Stratford, STARS efforts, and the Quality of Life for ANIMALS and PEOPLE, wouldn't it be in your own best interest to work towards worthy objected pointed out in constructive criticisms of myself, Barb, Animal Lower, Mr. Raevis, and others? Thnak you for your great work and worthy efforts.
Semi Happy Resident April 27, 2012 at 06:17 PM
George, I agree with what you have stated about constructive criticisms used to help improve Stratford. One person even pointed out to me that since no comments or discussions about the budget are provided by the ACO's in any of these articles then they must be happy with the money they are getting since STARS is the only one speaking up about the budget. I am not saying that they don't want more, but it does seem a bit odd that the ACO's are providing no comments or breakdown of their finances but STARS is. One would tend to think the department involved would be a bit vocal in making sure the public had a clear understanding of their budget and not using the volunteers as their advocate.
AnnMarie April 27, 2012 at 08:01 PM
In no way do I mean to offend you or anyone, & I agree that while animals need food, shelter, and health care, humans do as well... but there is one big difference that I see is not stated. With the exception of a few, MOST humans have the ability to read, write, speak, and provide for themselves. Animals do not. They cannot work to provide shelter or food for themselves so it is our responsibility. People need to start looking at the bigger issue of humans irresponsibly breeding these animals and causing what I now would consider a crisis. I'm not saying by passing this budget it will save the world, but it sure is a start wouldn't you agree? I commend these people for there VOLUNTEERED time and dedication and stand by them 100%!
Semi Happy Resident April 27, 2012 at 10:20 PM
AnnMarie, I agree with everything you have said. It is up to the humans to be responsible for the animals since many births could be avoided if they were fixed. But I think George was saying that despite the need for animals needing to be cared for there are many humans that can read and write but due to the economy or health issues have also been placed in an area of extreme need and care which also includes food and shelter because they have lost everything. There are always different points of views - the humans can get a job but in this economy many can not. The animals didn't ask to be born and they can't fend for themselves so its up to us to take care of them but where do you draw the financial line to accomplish that? From my impression George is not discounting either but feels the entire budget should be looked at to see where all the waste areas are and then redistribute those monies without the possible need for a tax increase. In other words I think he is trying to get the taxpayers the most bang for their buck by looking into the entire budget and not just keep increasing taxes to use as a bandaid to fix the bigger problem of wasted taxpayer dollars.
JRP May 03, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Well said Marjean. The ACOs serve the Town extremely well and provide a valuable service at a cost-savings to the Stratford taxpayers relative to their peer ACOs in many other towns!
k-9 lover June 19, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Saving the town money, u have got to be kidding. Do u have any idea what its costing u the tax payers for the two b.s. cruelty cases that have been going on for the better part of the last year? There hasnt been this many cruelty cases in the past 20 years combined prior to these three knuckleheads coming to town.

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