CADILLAC — Summertime for most means boating, fishing and fun in the sun. But for local animal control officers, the summer is business as usual and one even seeing an increase in missing dogs.
This year Missaukee and Wexford counties are seeing a lower number of dogs entering their shelters. Osceola County, however, is seeing an increase in its intake of dogs coming into the shelter.
Osceola County Animal Control Director Michelle Kuz said she and her staff are experiencing an increase in lost animals and an uptick in small livestock loss.
“We find that it runs in cycles each summer,‘ she said. “Some years it is just loose dogs and some years we have an increase in livestock losses. This year we are definitely experiencing that loss in livestock.‘
With the nicer weather, Kuz said more people are leaving their dogs outside unattended and, thus more dogs are getting out.
"The weather is nice," she said. "People want to let their dogs enjoy that too but this has resulted in dogs not being attended outside and getting out."
Kuz said the uptick in Osceola County may also be because of a "country mentality."
"People have this 'I live in the country' mentality and they don't think the same rules apply to them as they would if they lived in a more populated area."
Once out, a dog may go for smaller livestock like chickens, rabbits and ducks, Kuz said, as they are easier to get.
One of Kuz’s concerns is the growing number of 4-H kids in the area.
"We have more and more kids each year getting into raising rabbits and other small livestock," she said. "How do you explain to a kid that something they have worked so hard for is just gone?"
With this uptick in livestock loss, the animal control is experiencing a rise in calls and animals coming into the shelter, said Kuz.
“It has just been crazy here,‘ she said. Kuz did not know exactly how many calls she receives on a regular basis involving livestock and stray dogs.
While Osceola is experiencing an increase in lost dogs this year, other counties are reporting the opposite thanks to more awareness and the use of social media.
"We are busy daily," Wexford Animal Control Officer Ed Tharp said, "but I would not say it is any worse than in previous years."
In fact, Tharp said he believes there to be a decline in missing dogs reported to animal control due to a rise in awareness.
"I think people are just more aware of how to keep their animals safe," he said. "And because of that, I think this year we have had a decline, really."
In keeping animals off the street, Missaukee Animal Control Director Kyle Musselman said Facebook and social media has been a major help in getting animals home.
"I think social media has made a huge difference in getting animals home," he said. "Often the dog is back home within an hour of us getting a call."
While in previous years the number of stray dogs has been high, Musselman said, this year only 18 strays out of the 123 animals taken in by animal control have been dogs.
"The number of calls we have received for lost dogs is still the same but they have been getting back home much faster," Musselman said. "By the time we get in contact with the owner, the dogs are usually found."
Kuz said social media has been a huge help in easing her already full workload at the Osceola County Animal Control.
"People will post about a missing dog or we will and usually the post is filled with people from the community saying the dog is their neighbor’s down the street and then tag the neighbor,‘ said Kuz.
“It has also been a huge help in finding animals,‘ she said. “People will comment where they last saw the animal and that gives us more of a starting point sometimes.‘
To continue this decrease in Missaukee and Wexford counties and to lower the number of lost dogs in Osceola, all three shelters wanted to remind residents that Michigan requires animals to be contained and in the owner's control
Kuz said containment is for a dog’s safety, as a dog can get into all kinds of things when they are out on their own. Getting stuck with porcupine quills, getting sprayed by a skunk, being attacked by other dogs protecting their home and getting hit by a car are just a few of the things that can happen to a dog.
Keeping an up to date dog license on a dog is also required by state law but Kuz suggests owners chip their dogs or have an alternative form of identification on the dog as a secondary form of identification.
“A piece of duct tape on the collar with updated contact information will suffice in a pinch,‘ said Kuz. “At least that way we have an up-to-date phone number to call.‘