A cause for P.A.W.S.: Jackson seeks options for unloved pets

JACKSON -- When Dr. David Fell retired from his veterinary practice in Jackson late last summer, it left the city without an animal pound and in a bind for handling stray dogs and cats. Fell not only boarded the animals, but euthanized those dogs...

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June is one of the residents of P.A.W.S. who is looking for a loving home. (Tim Middagh/Daily Globe)

JACKSON - When Dr. David Fell retired from his veterinary practice in Jackson late last summer, it left the city without an animal pound and in a bind for handling stray dogs and cats. Fell not only boarded the animals, but euthanized those dogs and cats who went unclaimed.

Five months after his facility closed, the city has yet to find a permanent solution for handling strays.

A local business, Royal Lead Boarding, has agreed to take in all of the stray dogs on a temporary basis, but there are no options for the cats. Precious Animals Worth Saving (P.A.W.S.) takes in what it can, but the all-volunteer, no-kill foster network isn’t a permanent solution either, say city leaders.

Now, the Jackson City Council has established a subcommittee to consider the options.

“The consensus of the council is that we do need to do something with this issue,” said Jackson City Administrator Jennifer Bromeland.


The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office handles all reports of stray animals, and Sheriff Shawn Haken said it impounded 24 cats and 28 dogs between July 2015 and July 2016. Today, the stray dogs it captures are taken to the temporary shelter, but if someone reports a stray cat on their property, the sheriff’s office advises they shoo it away because they have nowhere for the felines to go.

“Since August, we just don’t respond to your typical call of a cat in the garage,” Haken said.

Bromeland said while she doesn’t believe Jackson has any more stray cats and dogs than cities of similar size, Haken said the Des Moines River flowing through town is a conduit for feral cats and wild animals.

“There’s no doubt that draws more feral cats into the city limits,” Haken said. “It’s not just cats, it’s deer, fox, turkeys - we’ve got plenty of animals that the Des Moines River brings to town.”

Jackson City Councilman Donnie Schoenrock, one of two city councilmembers assigned to the subcommittee seeking a solution, said the city is in a tough spot.

“We can’t sweep this under the rug,” he said. “It needs to be taken care of.”

Schoenrock said the city is fortunate to be working with Royal Lead Boarding and P.A.W.S., and it’s possible the city could work more closely with P.A.W.S. in the future.

He said the city has talked to P.A.W.S. co-founder and president Janice Lepinski to gauge her interest in renting a building to house animals, with the city reimbursing her for rent.


“Janice is really good - she’s passionate about what she does,” Schoenrock said. “We would contract with P.A.W.S., which would benefit everyone. If we can save them and get them adopted somewhere, why not?”

Schoenrock, though, said the subcommittee is still in the “early stages” of planning, and is interested in considering all options.

“I urge anyone with suggestions or interest in or (have a) solution to this problem to reach out and let me know,” he said. “We would love to know what other places are doing, or possibly even utilize a shelter in another community.”

One possible option is leasing the building that housed Fell’s former veterinary clinic. That would be a dream come true for Lepinski, who helped establish P.A.W.S. in November 2010 to rescue impounded dogs and cats in danger of being euthanized.

“We knew that any animal that was not claimed within five working days was put down and it broke our hearts,” Lepinski said. “That’s how we came into existence.”

More than six years later, Lepinski said P.A.W.S. is always overwhelmed with animals in need of a loving home.

At this time, P.A.W.S. has two dogs - down from four a month ago - and approximately 45 cats in foster care.

“Right now, a lot of our kids are special needs - some are a little older, some are on special diets, some are on medications of various kinds,” Lepinski said. “They deserve a good life, too.”


Lepinski said she is interested in working with the city to house the impounded animals, and she’s asked that P.A.W.S. be paid an amount comparable to what was paid to the veterinarian when he operated the city pound.

“(The city was) paying to euthanize all those dogs and cats after five days,” she said. “I’ve saved them a lot of money in the last six years.”

With a facility, Lepinski said she would need to have at least a part-time employee. All of the current P.A.W.S. volunteers have full-time jobs.

A building and staff aren’t the only issues, however.

Lepinski said the city would have to agree to P.A.W.S.’ no-kill philosophy and allow the organization to spay or neuter feral cats and release them back to where they came.

“There are a lot of ferals in our neighborhood that are not going to be adoptable without a lot of socialization,” she said. “There are stray cats that do need to be picked up - there’s no question about that - but feral cats have lived on the streets; they don’t trust humans.”

Because of P.A.W.S.’ no-kill philosophy, she wants to be able to trap, neuter and return feral cats to their environment. Lepinski said the city is resistant - current city ordinance states cats cannot be on the loose.

“I’ll hold (the animals) for five days and we take responsibility from there,” she said. “I’m asking (the city) to allow me to do it.”

Lepinski, who also serves on the subcommittee, said if the city decides not to work with P.A.W.S. as the city pound, she’s more than happy to give input.

“In an ideal world, every animal would have a loving forever home, and every animal would be claimed from an impound,” she said. “We do not live in an ideal world, though, so in the world we live in, I would love to see P.A.W.S. have a facility where stray dogs and cats could be brought to and if they - for whatever reason - go unclaimed, P.A.W.S. can take care of getting them fixed and updated on shots, and either find them new homes or determine what the best situation is for each animal.

“Ideally we would have a setting where there would be enough space that the feral cats could have their own indoor-outdoor area where they could be happy, yet safe,” she added. “To accomplish that, it would require more than just a single building, though, and right now we can't afford even one.”

In the end, money will be a major factor in whatever is decided.

“Our first and foremost thing is doing due justice with the taxpayers money,” Schoenrock said. “What’s the best decision for the taxpayer dollars, their general needs and the needs of the city?

“We want to take our time and have that end result come to a good decision that’s feasible and works well - not one we have to revisit again in a few months,” he added.

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Hope was one of the last dogs rescued from the pound in Jackson when veterinarian David Fell retired last summer. She remains in foster care through P.A.W.S. (Special to the Daily Globe)

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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