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Trenton's dog debacle prepares to force new animal control agency to be the villains (LA PARKER COLUMN)

Trenton Animal Shelter. (Rich Hundley III/Trentonian File Photo)

Trenton Police Lieutenant Alexis Durlacher speaks daily about the threat of his name being disgraced.

As much as anyone can prepare to be labeled a murderer, the veteran police officer is ready to take on the Trenton-based role of Cruella De Vil.

“I know they're going to call me a murderer, a dog killer,” said Durlacher, who understands that her current leadership role as chief of the city's animal control department puts her in a difficult situation.

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora created the new department and position, an appointment that sent Durlacher into a firestorm as Trenton's animal shelter became overcrowded — 57 dogs in the Escher St. facility built for 20 people and an estimated 60 in a kennel in Yardley, Pennsylvania – has forced city officials to prosecute dog killings. The Yardley housing costs Trenton taxpayers $13,000 a month.

Seven dogs were confirmed dead on May 6th. A dog is saved through rescue efforts as many animal rights activists and animal companion supporters make final efforts to prevent the euthanasia of dogs in Trenton's care. Nevertheless, the mass hysteria to prevent dog deaths is debilitating, especially when significant parts of this great drama could be avoided through effective policies regarding adoption, spay and neuter, breeding, etc.

A transition. According to the Humane Society of the United States, a healthy, adoptable dog or cat is euthanized at a shelter in the United States every 13 seconds.

Durlacher did not have the authority to speak specifically about many Trenton Area Shelter issues. She referred questions to City Hall because she failed to provide information about current animal control strategies.

One would assume that since the Trenton animal shelter is opting out of designation as a no-kill-for-space facility, officials should provide insight. It doesn't just mean death for these six dogs, as the plan is to continue euthanasia efforts until TAS reaches a more manageable population.

A half-hour visit to TAS Wednesday morning highlighted the overpopulation problem when three dogs arrived, one dropped off by the owner while an animal control officer headed out to pick up another. Adopting four dogs versus not adopting any, well, that's a pretty simple calculation.

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Scheduling dogs for death and hoping a deadline forces a resolution through frantic adoption and rescue is no way to run a shelter. However, keep in mind that some leaders can only achieve their performance through orchestrated chaos and drama.

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Meanwhile, City Council members say nothing and do even less on the housing issue.

At the time, Mayor Gusciora and city residents were able to blame City Council members Robin Vaughn and Kathy McBride for this dog mess.

Durlacher appears as the current potential scapegoat while the city administration remains silent. Gusciora has said next to nothing since he created the Animal Control Bureau by executive order.

The order removed animal supervision from Maria Richardson, who is also serving as interim director of Health and Human Services and director of Recreation, Natural Resources and Culture.

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The idea that the city of Trenton should buy kennels in Burlington County to solve the dog overpopulation problem amounts to city officials throwing dog feces against walls.

It doesn't stick, at least not here. But it's still being considered.

Selling the Kennels of Columbus for a whopping $350,000 won't solve the city's dog problem. Adoption might pose fewer challenges if our troubled canine friends were Dalmatians, but many are registered as purebred pit bulls or mixed breeds, making them persona non grata for many households.

As of Wednesday afternoon, death continues to loom for many of the city's adopted dogs.

LA Parker is a Trentonian columnist. Find him on Twitter @LAParker6 or email him at [email protected].

Anna Harden

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