River Valley animal advocates push for spay, neuter law

Alex Gladden
Fort Smith Times Record
Ashlyn Brown holds a cat for Andrea Strecker, DVM, to administer a rabies shot, Wednesday, April 7, at Kitties & Kanines shelter.

Officials at local animal shelters said having a law that requires people to spay and neuter their pets would solve the overpopulation problem within the area. 

Spaying and neutering pets prevents unwanted litters and prolongs the lives of the animals, said Jo Ellen Banhart, president of the board at Almost Home Shelter in Van Buren.

Both Banhart and Steph Ostrin — who runs Deserving Dogs Foster And Rescue, which facilitates dog adoptions in the Booneville area — agreed that having a law that calls for people to spay and neuter their pets would benefit the area. 

“Spaying and neutering does help," said Madeline Chaney, who works with Kitties & Kanines Shelter that organizes cat and dog adoptions in Fort Smith. 

Chaney pointed out that many northern states have laws requiring people to spay and neuter their animals.  But she was doubtful of whether people would actually follow the ordinance. 

Animal advocates in the River Valley would also like to see existing laws concerning animals better enforced. 

“I think the laws need to protect those dogs," Banhart said. 

Chaney mentioned the Fort Smith leash law something she would like for police to impose. It requires people to have their dogs on leashes when outside the home. Ostrin also wants the leash law better enforced in Booneville. 

Layla, a 12-year-old Terrier-mix, waits outside for some company to play with at Kitties & Kanines, 4800 S. 46th St, Wednesday, April 7.

Banhart said she is working with the Van Buren City Council to enact stricter fines for the abuse and neglect of animals. She also wants the city to create a law making people get their animals their shots. 

Fort Smith 

Chaney described the overpopulation of dogs and cats within Fort Smith as overwhelming. 

Kitties & Kanines has a contract with the city of Fort Smith stating that animal control officers will bring the cats and dogs to the shelter. The shelter takes in more than 2,000 animals annually. Every month, the shelter takes in a minimum of 200 animals.

The shelter has an above-average number of animals that it takes in when compared to shelters throughout the nation, Chaney added.

Kitties & Kanines works to adopt out the dogs and cats quickly or transport them to other no-kill shelters. While most cats are adopted out directly from the shelter, most dogs are transported to other shelters to be adopted out there.

Kitties & Kanines, which formed in response to the closing of Hope Humane Society in Fort Smith, began taking animals in June of 2019 and opened to the public in September of that year. 

“It’s bad, but it would be horrifying," without Kitties & Kanines doing its work, Chaney said. 

A recent intake, 9-month-old Edamame, nurses her kittens, Lima, Kidney, Pinto and Garbonzo, Wednesday, April 7, at the Kitties & Kanines shelter, 4800 S. 46th St., in Fort Smith.

The shelter is always looking for more families to foster dogs and cats. 

Van Buren 

Volunteers created Almost Home Shelter to stop the euthanization of animals in Van Buren, Banhart said. 

Prior to Almost Home, animal control officers held dogs for five days, and if their owners did not claim them within that time, they were euthanized.

“Someone has to fight for the dog," Banhart said. 

The shelter has been run exclusively by volunteers for the last four years it has been in operation. The shelter is always looking for more volunteers.

“If it weren’t for our volunteers and our community donating, we would not be able to exist," Banhart said. 

Every two weeks, Banhart works with other rescue organizations to transport the dogs to other states to be fostered. When the dogs leave the shelter, they are put in a foster home or adopted. 

“Our goal is to get them out of here, get them in a home," Banhart said. 

The shelter now has about 15 dogs, but that number can fluctuate almost daily. Although the shelter has had up to 60 dogs before, Banhart tries to keep that number below 20. 

“We always say we speak for the one that can’t speak," Banhart said. 

Booneville 

Booneville officials point to the lack of county animal control as the reason for the overabundance of stray dogs in the city.

Mayor Jerry Wilkins said people come into the city to leave their animals, creating an excess of stray dogs in the area.

Ostrin said she plans to contact Logan County Judge Ray Gack to discuss the possibility of the county creating an animal control unit to try to quell the issue. 

Ostrin would also like to work with the city to try to fix the problem. She said by sharing resources and ideas, the group could make a difference.

“I’m here. I’m tenacious. I love these animals. I love this town, and I think we could do something," Ostrin said. 

The city dedicates 5% of a 1-cent sales tax to animal control, allotting about $40,000 a year to care for animals, Wilkins said. 

The Booneville Animal Shelter generally houses no more than 10 dogs at a time, said Dixie Trowbridge, who volunteers daily at the shelter. Trowbridge works with other rescue groups to transport the dogs to different states for adoption. The shelter rarely adopts dogs out to people in Booneville. 

Last year, the shelter transported more than 80 dogs for adoption in other states, Trowbridge said. 

Ostrin suggested that the shelter begin doing adoption events in northwest Arkansas, similarly to what Deserving Dogs Foster and Rescue has done. At one event, the nonprofit adopted out 23 dogs. Half of the 23 dogs were older dogs. She has been able to have seven or eight adoption events. 

Ostrin would also like to see the shelter expanded and be staffed throughout the day. 

Deserving Dogs Foster And Rescue has adopted out 110 dogs since October when Ostrin started the organization.

The city shelter euthanizes dogs who the animal control officers deem vicious.

Paris 

For the Paris animal shelter, the goal is always to not have animals in the facility, Paris Mayor Daniel Rogers said. 

The city tries to find the owner or adopt out the animals from the shelter, but most of the time that is not the case, and Heavenly Paws, a rescue organization that the city works with, finds the animals homes. 

The Charleston animal shelter also often takes animals from the Paris shelter and helps them find new homes.

There are no animals at the shelter right now.

“That’s the way we like it," Rogers said.

The shelter was rebuilt in 2019 for $28,395 and can house 18 dogs. Rogers said the shelter strives to be a no-kill shelter but euthanizes dogs as a last resort or if animal control officers decide they are vicious.

Greenwood 

The city of Greenwood does not have an animal shelter but uses Mountain Top Kennels, in the Washburn area, to house its stray dogs, said Justin Pettit, the city's animal control officer.

Pettit said he only picks up dogs and that he tries to find their owners or adopt them out. If he can't, he gives the dogs to the Artemis Project, a rescue organization in the Hackett area.

The Artemis Project finds families in northern states to adopt the dogs.

Greenwood does not euthanize any of the dogs that it picks up.