By Mary Meldrum
Photos by Bernie Laframboise and from the HPAC
IN ONE OF THE BUILDINGS OWNED BY THE CITY OF HAZEL PARK AT 24211 COUZENS AVE., HAZEL PARK ANIMAL CONTROL has a small office – it really consists of just a desk amidst the cages in the cinder block room. From this modest headquarters, Hazel Park’s Animal Control Officer, Justin Holland, and his small dedicated band of volunteers manage a myriad of animal-related issues for the city of Hazel Park.
The Hazel Park Animal Shelter cares for local strays, feral cats and dogs, animals abandoned by their owners, animals seized from owners due to improper care, surrendered animals, and house bite cases. They are just starting to do direct adoptions, and they also sometimes work with local rescues to find the right homes for the animals at the shelter. Adoption applications are available for those interested in animals at the shelter. They currently have a 90 per cent return and placement rate through their Facebook postings. Lost pets and animals looking for a new home tend to find one quickly.
The Hazel Park Animal Control Shelter Facebook page was designed to get the word out about the shelter, as well as provide residents a way to spread the news about lost/found pets in and around the city. The page has a healthy turnover of pictures and information on the dogs and cats that are being kept and then reunited with their owners through the shelter. Additionally, adoptable pets from the Hazel Park Animal Shelter are posted on PetFinder.com.
There are 21 cages for cats and eight kennels for dogs (with two outdoor dog runs that can be used in weather above 40 degrees). Volunteers are at the shelter two or three times a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to make sure the animals are fed and cared for as well as to help the public with other animal-related problems.
While larger cities have more resources and more open land, the city of Hazel Park is just under two square miles, making the capture and release of wild animal pests impossible for the small crew at animal control. The City Code Department handles any rat infestation issues, while the raccoons and opossum complaints are farmed out to the proper third-party organizations.
While there are some open and available cages now, there are times where the shelter has an increase in resident cats and/or dogs. Late fall tends to be a big time for cats being reported and brought to the shelter. Well-meaning citizens are under the impression that the cat might not survive the approaching cold weather and call the Shelter to come pick up the cat. Stray animals, bite cases, domestic and wild road kills and lost animals at large are the responsibility of the Animal Control department. The biggest part of Justin’s day is split between care for the animals in the shelter and keeping his paperwork up to date. Other than a designated part-time Shelter Manager who is paid for two hours a day, Justin is the only employee of Animal Control. He has been the Animal Control Officer for a year-and-a-half, after spending four years in the Code Department for the city.
The shelter is experiencing good times. The Facebook page is more active than ever and the shelter has put a few policies in place that help dogs and cats get recovered and get them home faster. At least once a year the Hazel Park Animal Control Shelter hosts a low-cost vaccination clinic. It is a great opportunity for pet owners; for $30 you can get complete immunization for your dog or cat. They have also just instituted policies recently where police officers can bring dogs and cats into the shelter after hours and call one of the shelter volunteers to meet them most hours of the night. This has greatly reduced the “returned home” turnaround time for many dogs and cats who end up at the shelter from days to mere hours. Lost animals are posted on the “For the Love of Louie” Facebook page, as well as other local forums that help to reunite pets with their owners.
Justin was very clear about thanking the City Council of Hazel Park for keeping the Animal Control Department in its budget planning. With so many responsibilities, Hazel Park chooses to be a small city with a big heart for animals and the people who regard them as family members.