In April, the City Council approved a plan to pay the shelter $2,000 per month and $90 for every animal control intake over 49 animals, in addition to the city’s $29,000 annual appropriation. This plan is in effect until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
Councilmen voiced concern at Monday’s council work session about the $5,510 invoice from ARF for June, which included the $2,000 charge plus $90 for 39 individual animals.
The individual animal charge is considered the cost of keeping an animal for seven days, the minimum length of time required by state law.
One issue that concerned the city is that ARF charged the full $90 for some animals that either had not been at the shelter for seven days at the time of billing or died or had to be euthanized before the seven days was complete.
ARF Chairman Joe Richardson said at Friday’s meeting that they would charge by individual days, or actual cost, in the future. However, Richardson said most of the $90 charge is spent on the first day an animal arrives.
“When you take the $90 and divide it into seven days, it comes out to $12 and something, but that is not reflective of our true costs,” he said. “A lot of our costs are front-loaded because of the treatment they get in the beginning. We will have to come up with a formula for that first day. That day may be higher than the remaining six, but we will bill for so many days actual costs that month and carry over into the next month.”
City Clerk Patricia Carden also said the two groups need to agree on what defines an animal control animal. ARF, which contracts with the city to handle animal control, includes those delivered by the nuisance control officer, toss-outs and drop-offs, Good Samaritan drop-offs, citizen surrenders and births; but Carden said this formula was set before the city hired its new nuisance control officer, Michelle Taylor, in June. Richardson said he would discuss it with ARF board members within the next few days.
“The tax money being paid to operate the ARF and animal control is more than matched by ARF through contributions and fundraising that we do that has dried up because of all this controversy,” Richardson said. “We are not attempting to defraud the city or misrepresent anything to anybody. We’re focused on our mission of what we’re doing.”
The topic then turned to finding a long-term solution to the city’s animal control issues. Wright said enacting a new plan would be difficult until the new administration takes over in November. In the meantime, he suggested they form a small committee to begin to work through the problems.
John Floyd, who owns ARF’s Mobile Adoption Bus, suggested the committee should consist of two city and two ARF representatives and one at-large member.
“We need people who can provide expertise, answer questions, inquire of other cities and develop a long-range plan,” Floyd said. “The new administration may tweak it or they may throw it in File 13, but we’ll have made an effort to look at it under a microscope and determine what’s in the best interest.”
Floyd said there would always be some conflict between the city and ARF because their missions are different.
“We’re interested in spay, neuter, adoptions, education and putting the dogs in the community that are adoptable and working with animal control,” he said. “(The city’s) mission statement is to control animals in the community. We don’t agree with a seven-and-down philosophy, so at some point we have got to work together on how we’re going to be able to work in the best interest of the creatures we’re all interested in serving.”
Taylor said the first step to reorganizing the city’s animal control is to revise the ordinance to place more responsibility on animal owners.
“The first offense is $15,” she said. “That’s not enough. The fines need to go up, and it needs to be required that all dogs are vaccinated for rabies. If not, you’re fined for that as well.”
Taylor also suggested partnering with organizations to increase the adoption rate, enforcing spay and neuter laws and better defining what is required of owners.
The groups agreed to move forward with forming a committee. Richardson said the first priority is determining if ARF will continue to handle animal control.
“Are we going to give the shelter back to the city and go our own way?” he said. “That’s the first thing. What is the city’s vision and what is our vision and how can we merge the two?”
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