The Stray Dogs Initiative relates to MAP Initiative Number 2: Fostering Collaboration. This MAP Initiative addresses efforts to work together, promoting inclusion, engagement, and participation and thus, applies to Industry’s stray dog problem, which will require the active and widespread participation of many neighborhood residents. Specifically, the Stray Dog Initiative relates to Action Number 3: Creating a Robust Volunteer Program. This action directly references the creation of neighborhood crime watch groups. In regards to the Industry neighborhood, the Stray Dogs Initiative suggests that residents form a pet watch program, structured much like a crime watch. Such a program will utilize many dedicated neighborhood volunteers, all who are willing to collaborate with one another to develop a vigilant watch schedule.
Why this is important
This initiative was developed after the January 2015 meeting of Industry’s Neighborhood Association, at which several residents identified stray dogs as causing a problem for the community. This initiative was given a high priority level by the residents and students.
This initiative is important to the neighborhood because, in many instances, stray dogs make the residents of Industry fear for their safety. This fear, as one resident described, prevents people from walking or exercising outside. Most importantly, these dogs may or may not be friendly and thus, present a very real danger to the community. Additionally, the presence of stray dogs gives the perception that Industry is an unsafe place to visit and live. This initiative is not just intended to help the people of the neighborhood, but the strays as well. It suggests effective, humane methods for dealing with the stray dogs, many of whom simply need to be returned home to their owners or adopted by a loving family.
What this will involve
For this initiative to take place several things will have to occur. First and foremost, the neighborhood association should host a day in which residents can bring their dogs to a specified location for microchipping. Microchips are small devices placed under a dog’s skin which, when scanned, give both identification and contact information about its owner. Ideally, a local veterinarian would volunteer to implant these microchips free of charge. Microchips would be paid for through a grant by either a local or national foundation. This action would allow for dogs roaming the neighborhood to be scanned by animal control and either returned to their owners or identified as strays. Strays could then be removed from the neighborhood and taken to the Muncie Animal Shelter.
The second step in this initiative will be for residents to establish a pet watch program. The basics of this program are outlined in Case Study One below. Further information can be gained by visiting Orange County’s website on establishing such a group, the link to which directly follows the case study. The most important aspect of the program is creating a roster of neighborhood dogs, which includes pets’ names, basic descriptions or photographs, and owner contact information. While creating such an inventory will be an extensive undertaking for neighborhood volunteers, it will allow for quick identification of seemingly stray dogs. Those who appear on the roster can either be led home if friendly or a phone call can be quickly placed to the owner. For dogs not appearing on the roster, animal control can be contacted and the animal can be removed from the neighborhood. Such a program will increase the efficiency of dealing with neighborhood strays, allowing for quick return of local pets, while simultaneously easing the burden on Muncie’s animal control services and Animal Shelter. A pet watch program may be inexpensive in monetary terms, but it will require a great deal of volunteer time to be implemented correctly.
The final aspect of this initiative is for the Industry neighborhood to offer several pet education classes each year. In Case Study Two (found below), it is implied that taking care of a pet is more difficult than many people think when they initially acquire a dog. Some owners fail to correctly care for their pets not due to a lack of concern, but due to a lack of knowledge of basic pet care. Therefore, pet education classes would help teach residents how to properly care for their dogs, hopefully helping to prevent them from letting their dogs roam in the future. These classes could be taught by volunteers, ideally from the local animal shelter, and provided to residents free of charge.
Because this effort will be initiated and sustained by a group of neighborhood volunteers, no clear leader is yet present. Interested residents will have to step forward and from these individuals, an organizer can be selected. It will be up to this group of dedicated volunteers to initiate contact with the funding/assistance sources below and to establish exact project timelines and details.
The majority of this initiative will be implemented by volunteers and therefore, cost-free. However, the microchips themselves will be a significant cost, one for which the Industry Neighborhood Association can apply for grant funding. Grants to humanely reduce the stray pet population are provided by organizations such as the Bissell Foundation, but can also be applied for locally through organizations such as the Ball Brothers Foundation or the Community Foundation of Muncie & Delaware County. All grant applications can be found online. Foundation contact information is detailed below.
As mentioned above, a trained veterinarian will be required to implant the microchips. To find a willing participant, volunteers will have to compile a listing of local vets and then start making phone calls. Ideally, this person would serve on a volunteer basis; however, a fee could be written into the grant application.
Muncie’s animal control services will play a role in both returning neighborhood dogs to their homes and capturing strays. They should be contacted on an as needed basis by telephone. Finally, for possible pet education classes, Industry volunteers can request the help of the Muncie Animal Shelter. Please find contact information below.
Contact information for funding/assistance sources
Bissell Pet Foundation
2345 Walker Avenue NW
Grand Rapids MI 49544
Email: Email correspondence with Bissell can be initiated through the “Contact” tab on their website
Ball Brothers Foundation
222 South Mulberry Street
Muncie, IN 47305
Phone: (765) 741-5500
Contact: Ms. Donna Munchel, Grant Process Manager
Community Foundation of Muncie & Delaware County
201 E. Jackson Street
Muncie, IN 47305
Phone: (765) 747-7181
Fax: (765) 289-7770
Contact: Ms. Cheryl Decker
Muncie Animal Shelter/Animal Control
2401 S. Gharkey Street
Muncie, IN 47302
Phone: (765) 747-4851
Contact: Mr. Phillip Peckinpaugh, Director
The Stray Dog Initiative applies to the entire neighborhood. As Industry’s stray dog population is not limited to one single area and of course, as dogs are extremely mobile, pet watch and microchipping efforts must be implemented on a neighborhood-wide basis.
Case Study One
The Orange County Government published a document explaining that an effective way to control animal populations within a community is to establish a neighborhood pet watch. The idea is based off of the traditional neighborhood crime watch programs which have been in existence since the 1970’s. Due to their flexibility and capacity to accommodate many needs, neighborhood watch programs are widely implemented geographically and can be utilized as a monitoring system for countless issues. Thus, the Orange County Government suggests implementing a neighborhood pet watch in any community with a stray pet issue.
After organizing a group of willing participants, the first step which Orange County recommends taking when establishing a neighborhood pet watch is creating a neighborhood roster of pets and pet owners. The County suggests including the following pieces of information: pets’ names, basic descriptions or photographs, and owner contact information. Additionally, the watch group should encourage neighborhood pet owners to fit all animals, especially dogs, with collars and identification tags.
If an unfamiliar, unregistered pet shows up, the watch group should call the animal shelter.
In order to manage stray dog populations, Orange County also suggests that its pet watch groups participate in the following activities:
1) Help the elderly with their pets—pets provide a great source of companionship to older individuals; however it is oftentimes difficult for elderly individuals to provide their animals with the necessary care, especially when it comes to taking their dogs on walks. To prevent the dogs from simply being “let out,” a neighborhood watch group could offer to walk dogs, as well as clean litter boxes, feed pets, or take pets to the veterinarian. The County states that, if these needs cannot be met, members of the neighborhood pet watch should alert the authorities.
2) Designate a dog friendly area—oftentimes, owners will let their dogs roam at-large due to a lack of appropriate spaces in which to walk/exercise them. Therefore, the Government of Orange County suggests creating a dog friendly area within each neighborhood, such as a fenced dog park. Such a venue will not only help in preventing stray dogs but will encourage social interaction among neighbors.
Besides solving the issue of stray animals, Orange County states that a neighborhood pet watch can help prevent animal abuse as well. Seeing an injured animal left untreated or the same dog tied up for hours on end without food, water, or shelter would be a definite cause to call the authorities.
The activities called for by this case study can begin to be implemented immediately with very little, if any, funding required. Such organizations are generally started by residents who are passionate about their community and the pets living within it.
Case Study Two
The Westside Dog Initiative is a San Antonio-based program aimed at reducing the number of strays plaguing the city’s neighborhoods. The initiative was started by Linda Rodriguez, a former teacher who moved to the area several years ago and was disturbed by the number of strays she encountered on a daily basis.
Rodriguez did not believe that simply fostering dogs would solve the problem and neither she nor the Westside Dog Initiative had the funds or the facilities necessary to care for such a large number of animals. Instead, she decided to focus on educating the community about the importance of animal care, spay, and neuter.
In the early stages of the Initiative, Rodriguez and her volunteers focused on teaching the neighborhood’s children about the basics of pet care. To educate these young residents, the Westside Dog Initiative did craft projects at elementary schools/neighborhood events, gave talks to local groups, and advertised events on its website.
The Initiative has received attention from local donors and receives most of its funding from sources such as the Alamo Beard Club and St. Mary’s University’s For Paws. Additionally, the group holds mission-oriented fundraisers such as a community BBQ combined with a day of action.