When someone in Hancock County is concerned about a stray animal running loose, or any animal being abused, two key names come quickly to mind: Mike Wright and Anissa Sadeghi.
Wright is the part time animal control officer hired by Hancock County. Sadeghi is a zealous and tireless volunteer who has formed the West Hancock Canine Rescue.
While both care deeply for what they do, they would like Hancock County residents to put them out of business.
Mike and I both say, 'Put us out of business. Just feed, water and neuter your pets. Keep them secure, and give me my life back, Sadeghi said.
Until that happens, Wright will continue to pick up stray dogs and other animals, and Sadeghi will keep driving pets to adoptive and foster homes each weekend.
Hancock County budgets 31,598 for animal control. That includes a stipend for the administrator and the salary for Wright, the warden and pound keeper; office supplies; mileage; building supplies; destruction of animals; tags; electricity; phone and postage.
West Hancock Canine Rescue funding is totally from donations and occasional grants. Sadeghi and other volunteers care for animals at their shelter that can extend the life of animals past the seven day county limit.
Wright has been Hancock County animal control officer for 13 years, handling an average of at least one call a day.
Calls vary, with stray dogs and dog bite cases, and I am dealing with a lot more calls about other wild animals, like sickly raccoons, Wright said.
I am getting more dog abuse calls now, people who cant afford to care for their dogs. Or they tie them outside on a short chain with no food or water. They dont use their heads.
He manages, maintains and repairs the county dog pound, and cares for dogs that are there. He works with the dog catcher hired in Carthage, and the police departments of the other towns in Hancock County. He picks up stray dogs reported in rural areas of the county and small, unincorporated villages that do not have their own police departments such as Bentley, Colusa or Basco.
The animals he picks up are taken to the county pound just west of Carthage, where they stay for up to seven days before being destroyed or moved to the West Hancock shelter.
Wright said when he started he was dealing with about 200 stray dogs a year, and most of them were euthanized.
I had around 600 dogs in 2011. It runs between 400 to 600 a year, Wright said.
The difference now is that, working with Sadeghi and the West Hancock Canine Rescue, about 85 percent of the dogs are adopted or fostered to homes around the state.
Sadeghi sees a lot of disease in the animals she helps and gets from Wright.
Ever since the flooding in 2008, when there was standing water for weeks, we have had so much heartworm, particularly on the western part of the county, Warsaw and Hamilton, Sadeghi said. When you get further east in the county there is not so much.
The county cant provide vaccinations. Medications for heartworm, as well as treating fleas, ticks, mange and other conditions, are paid from donations. Sadeghi said the worse cases of animal abuse come in the peak times of temperature extremes, whether summer heat or bitter cold.
Neglect by owners is a crime. We get reports of animal abuse, animals with no food, shelter or water. Neighbors see it, she said. But in Hancock County Wright does not have authority to issue tickets or make arrests on animal care laws. He must call in local law enforcement.
Sadeghi has many documented cases that go beyond neglect. She has rescued a cat shot with an arrow still in its flank. Last fall, she found a terribly emaciated and abused dog, and she recently helped a basset hound that was shot. She has some funds for emergency care, and in some cases, she is able to use social media to generate donations to sponsor the care and treatment of these animals. But these may be the exception.
The law is clear. If there is an emergency, say a dog is hit by the car and the owner is not found, animal control has the legal right to euthanize the animal to stop suffering. People need to know that tax dollars do not go to animal health. They are for public safety.
Both Wright and Sadeghi find animals abandoned at the door step county pound or the West Hancock shelter (the building northwest of Carthage built and owned by the Hearts of Hancock Humane Society).
That seems to pick up on holiday weekends, or when kids go back to school. We get seniors (older dogs) dumped off because people just dont want to deal with them, she said.
The county position is to provide the pound catch pin, a safe haven where they take possession of the animals. I hate it, but it is better than having the animals dumped three miles down the road, being loose, getting hit, causing an accident or biting some child.
It is illegal, a misdemeanor, to dump animals in the open to the public charge. We turn over any information we get to the sheriff department, Sadeghi said.
Wrights full time job is township road commissioner, but he gets calls about animals any time of the day or night, seven days a week.
In the summer, when I get a call, I can get there pretty quickly. In winter, if roads are bad, I cant always get to the animal right away. The roadwork comes first, Wright said.