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Our views: Hiring veterinarian at Janesville's shelter symbolizes care in community

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July 26, 2014

It's remarkable how far Janesville's animal shelter has come since Brett Frazier took over as executive director.

It marked a milestone this week when the shelter, now known as the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin, announced the hiring of Becky Stuntebeck as its first on-site veterinarian.

Complaints from critics grew to a howl before Angela Rhodes vacated the executive director position in February 2013. The shelter's board chose Frazier, who is Milton's mayor and has experience in marketing, to lead the way forward. He has done just that.

Frazier immediately began mending fences with municipalities that clashed with Rhodes and balked at costlier contracts.

Last September, Frazier announced that Blain's Farm & Fleet would provide the shelter about 10 tons of food annually at no cost. That came after Mounds Pet Food Warehouse severed ties with the shelter early last year. Mounds stopped providing food free or at cost, and it closed an adoption center that helped the humane society find homes for more than 1,300 animals the previous 14 years.

Also last September, Frazier announced a facelift for the shelter at 222 Arch St. Some care spaces were transformed into “community rooms,” where cats climb trees or curl up on sunny shelves for naps or to watch birds at a feeder outside. In main areas, brighter lighting and walls painted with tropical colors create a cheerier, positive atmosphere.

In March, Frazier announced the shelter's new name because many people believed the former Rock County Humane Society was part of county government and got county tax dollars. Having Rock County in its name also led families outside the county to think they were ineligible to donate or adopt animals. Dovetailing with the name change to expand appeal were new logos, a modern, inviting website at petsgohome.org and a bigger emphasis on social media.

On July 8, the sheriff's office and humane society announced a partnership designed to save dogs thought to be unadoptable and help keep jail inmates from returning to lives of crime. Inmates will train dogs at the Canine Corrections Academy, the first of its kind at a Wisconsin jail. Jail officials hope to reduce anger problems while inmates and dogs learn about kindness and respect and build self-esteem.

For its first vet, the humane society was smart to hire someone with experience at a shelter, where disease can spread quickly with animals in close quarters. Stuntebeck spent the last year at the Dane County Humane Society in an internship through the UC-Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program. She visited the Janesville shelter and helped enact new veterinary protocols and upgrade the health and safety policy.

Frazier determined the shelter paid almost $30,000 annually for spaying/neutering and other veterinary services. It's shifting those expenses to pay for Stuntebeck's 24 hours per week. Stuntebeck will perform more than 1,000 spaying/neutering operations annually, as well as other surgeries. She also will boost sanitation and oversee daily monitoring of more than 2,000 animals that pass through the shelter each year.

“This takes us to a new level of care at the humane society,” Frazier said in a news release. “The health of the pets we care for is a priority for all of us here.”

The shelter's budget remains tight, and this move is possible because of donations that traditionally account for half of the shelter's budget.

“We'll keep doing our part to operate efficiently and effectively if the community keeps doing its part by adopting, volunteering and donating to keep the doors open and the lights on,” Frazier said in an email.

Its compassion and care for animals says much about a community. In the greater Janesville area, that compassion is growing.



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