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Rod Boam, Deseret Morning News
One of the 50 dogs Lisa Shaw cares for at her Millville kennel in Cache County, which lacks a central location for housing lost pets.<BR>

LOGAN — Finding a lost pet in Cache County can be confusing.

A dog that strays in Wellsville could be taken to a veterinarian's office in Richmond, 22 miles to the northeast. Or it might wind up in a kennel near Millville, 10 miles to the east.

"Having the system that we have now makes it more difficult for people to know where to look for them," said Cliff Mitchell, owner of North Cache Veterinary Service in Richmond.

The problem: decentralization.

Cache County and the cities in it handle stray dogs and cats in their own ways. Animal-control officers in Logan take strays to Cache Meadow Veterinary Clinic in North Logan, while the county's animal-control officer takes them from the unincorporated areas and many of the small towns to Mitchell's Richmond office.

Meanwhile, many people who find strays or want to get rid of unwanted pets take them to Four Paws Rescue, a privately owned animal shelter near Millville that some neighbors complain is too noisy.

In most cases, the veterinary clinics hold the animals for three to five business days before putting them up for adoption. If they're not adoptable, they're euthanized, which means a dog could be killed if the owner doesn't look in the right places within the allotted time, said Lisa Shaw, founder of Four Paws Rescue.

"If you're out of town for a week, and your dog becomes missing, you could lose your dog," Shaw said.

Virtually everyone agrees the system — or, perhaps more accurately, the lack of a system — is flawed, but efforts to improve it have hit roadblocks. About 10 years ago, the Cache Humane Society bought an acre and a half just outside of Logan on Valley View Highway, or state Route 30, and two years ago built a shelter with capacity for 100 cats and 100 dogs.

But the Utah Department of Transportation has said a turnout lane on the highway must be built before the shelter can open. And building the turnout lane means a small wetland area will be eliminated, so the Humane Society has to create wetland somewhere else to make up for it.

The Humane Society has raised the $160,000 needed to build the turnout lane, and UDOT is helping find wetland somewhere else to replace the area lost at the shelter site, said Lee Austin, the Humane Society's president. Austin hopes construction on the turnout can begin in the spring.

"We've had endless frustration just trying to get the facility," Austin said.

Once the shelter opens, Austin hopes the county and most of the cities in it will contract with the Humane Society.

"Our intent is to take over those contracts — have a one-stop place for animal control and adoption," Austin said.

County Executive Lynn Lemon said Cache County would like that.

"We've made a commitment to the Cache Humane Society that if they could get their facility up and working, we'd be supportive of that," Lemon said.

Meanwhile, County Councilwoman Kathy Robison has suggested building an animal shelter at the county jail, which is west of Logan near the Humane Society's facility, and allowing inmates to care for the animals. Although the idea is in its embryonic stage, Robison said the jail facility would likely complement the Humane Society's efforts.

"We have to get together and work out all the details," she said. "We're excited about this. We think we can make it work."

E-mail: mikewennergren@yahoo.com