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Geography is indeed destiny, as the saying goes — at least for stray animals in Pulaski County.
Where an animal is picked up has a direct, and in some cases immediate, impact on the length of time it stays alive.
Little Rock, North Little Rock and the county government each has its own set of dogcatchers that pick up strays within the city or county limits. But the unincorporated area of the county has no animal shelter — and with chronic budget shortages and an overcrowded jail, that's not likely to change anytime soon.
Animals found outside the Little Rock city limits and south of the Arkansas River fare the worst. The county has contracts with several local veterinarians, and the animals are taken to those vets to be euthanized, said Kenneth Gilkie, head of the county's animal control department.
Strays in unincorporated areas north of the river fare somewhat better, although still not as well as their city cousins. The county has an agreement with the North Little Rock animal control department to keep north-county strays for at least five days — the same minimum length of time city strays get — to give owners a chance to claim their animals.
“After that it depends on how much room we've got,” said Billy Grace, director of the North Little Rock animal control department.
The North Little Rock shelter has 40 dog cages reserved for the five-day quarantine period, Grace said, and eight of those are set aside for county dogs. There are another 34 cages on the “adoption line,” where dogs are moved after the initial five days if there's room and they're considered adoptable — healthy, friendly and tame. Otherwise, they're euthanized. If there's a “tie” between a North Little Rock dog and a county dog, Grace said, the city dog gets priority, since city taxpayers foot the bill for the shelter and for a spay and neuter program that helps keep the number of strays down. (Pulaski County does pay for its strays to be kept for the five-day quarantine, but doesn't have a spay-neuter program.)
“We keep them as long as we possibly can,” Grace said.
In March alone, he said, the county brought in 68 dogs and cats — fewer than the number of city strays, but, Grace said, “What they're bringing in from the county's just drop in the bucket of what's out there.”
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