Story and photo by Andrea Sutherland
In a concrete kennel, intake 003-12 meows loudly, hissing when Merle Maser gets too close.
Intake 003-12, a male domestic long hair feline, was found roaming Fort Carson Jan. 3. The staff from Land of Ahs has tried to find an adoption agency, but “cats are hard,” said Maser, owner of Land of Ahs Kennel, located in Fountain.
When an animal is brought to Land of Ahs, they have five days to be reclaimed by the owner, or they may be placed for adoption or, as a last resort, humanely disposed of, according to Lt. Col. Mike Kropushek, director of Emergency Services at Fort Carson.
Intake 003-12 found a home with a local adoption agency four days later.
“The Land of Ahs Kennel has contact with a large number of adoption agencies throughout the community,” said Christopher Zimmerman, chief conservation officer of the game wardens at Fort Carson. The kennel places animals with 10 different local agencies and also has contacts with a number of statewide adoption agencies.
Until recently, lost and abandoned animals were taken to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, but the organization recently severed ties with Fort Carson due to budget constraints.
“The Humane Society, the building, was meant to take in (approximately) 17,000 animals per year,” Zimmerman said. “I think they’re currently taking in 22,000 per year, so significantly over the number the facility has capacity for. … One of the easiest things to do to reduce almost 1,000 animals per year was to delete some of their larger external contracts.”
Fort Carson now contracts with Land of Ahs, a private kennel.
Every year, more than 900 animals are collected by Fort Carson personnel. National statistics show only a third are claimed by owners.
Maser said his kennel is equipped to hold 150 animals. Five days into the contract, which began Jan. 1, 12 animals found on Fort Carson were brought to the kennel, including nine 5-week-old puppies allegedly abandoned Jan. 5 in Ironhorse Park. An adoption agency will foster the puppies until they are old enough to be adopted.
“Breeding operations in family housing are not permitted, but a one-time, accidental litter is allowed,” Zimmerman said. The litter must be removed by three months of age or registered at the Veterinary Clinic.
“We had two dogs brought to us Jan. 1, but they were micro-chipped and returned to the owners,” Maser said.
According to Fort Carson Regulation 40-37, privately-owned animals living on Fort Carson must be registered at the Veterinary Treatment Facility within 72 hours. Animals must also receive microchip implants within 30 days of arriving on post.
Microchips help officials locate owners of lost pets, which Zimmerman believes make up the majority of animals found on Fort Carson.
“I think most are getting out of the backyard, either digging under a fence, the fence is inadequate or they’re climbing and jumping the fence,” Zimmerman said. “Unfortunately, I suspect that some are dumped along Highway 115 or find their way onto Fort Carson from the south side of Colorado Springs.”
Zimmerman said while his office primarily handles dogs and cats, he has had to handle other exotic animals.
“We’ve dealt with just about everything,” he said. “We’ve picked up boa constrictors out of the barracks, out of the housing areas. We picked up a boa constrictor out of the rail yard recently. It was probably dumped there by somebody … it was about 5-6 foot long. It was a good thing he was found, because he wouldn’t have survived the winter.”
Fort Carson only has one domestic animal control officer on staff. When he isn’t available, the military police and Department of the Army civilian police step in to handle the animals.
In addition to manpower hours, the cost of handling stray animals is staggering.
“It costs Fort Carson $19 per day, per animal. We take in just over two animals per day,” Zimmerman said.
This year, Fort Carson allocated $80,649 from garrison funds to transport and care for animals taken to the animal shelter.
“It gets to be expensive,” Zimmerman said.
Pet owners can help reduce the costs by complying with animal control policies. Owners are also responsible for maintaining control of their pet at all times. Housing residents must register their pets with Balfour Beatty and sign a pet addendum, acknowledging that they have read and understand the requirements to maintain an animal on post.
A penalty may be imposed upon anyone who fails to comply with the above policies, ranging from a warning letter up to being barred from post.
Those who do not properly take care of their pet may face heavy fines and possibly criminal charges.
Abandoning a pet, a violation of state statute, carries a minimum fine of $500 and is a class one misdemeanor.
Zimmerman encouraged the community to contact military police at 526-2333 if an animal is seen wandering on Fort Carson or if mistreatment of an animal is suspected.
To retrieve a lost pet, the Land of Ahs kennel is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday and 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The kennel is closed on Sunday and holidays.Land of Ahs is located at 12599 Jordan Road in Fountain. Visit http://fcar.biz or call 719-382-0188 for more information.