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Animal control costs county nearly $770,000

November 04, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County will pay the Humane Society nearly $770,000 to provide animal control services this fiscal year, an expense one County Commissioner blamed on irresponsible pet owners.

"Really, any amount above zero is unacceptable," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said in an interview Tuesday. "It's all a matter of people not taking responsibility for their pets."

Wivell said it was a "shame the county has to shell out about $800,000 for animal control."

The commissioners voted Tuesday to give the Humane Society $250,526, which it had set aside for the shelter in May, pending a review of the Humane Society's budget. That amount is in addition to the $519,220 the commissioners gave to the Humane Society in May.

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That means the county will pay $769,746 for animal control services this fiscal year. The Humane Society contracts with the county to provide the services.

Wivell said that amount was about $90,000 short of what the Humane Society requested from the commissioners - a shortfall the shelter would have to make up on its own, he said.

"I'm not sure if we can make up that $90,000 shortfall," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said during Tuesday's meeting.

The commissioners agreed Tuesday that they wanted to negotiate a new contract with the Humane Society for fiscal year 2006.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval was the lone board member to vote against giving the Humane Society the additional $250,526.

He said he wanted to discuss the issue more before he made a decision and that he wasn't sure whether the county should pay as much as it does for animal control services.

Wivell said that while pet owners need to take better care of their pets - getting them spayed or neutered, for instance - the county should be proactive in developing a program that would reduce the number of animals going to the shelter.

He said the Humane Society has taken some steps to reduce costs, such as putting a freeze on new hires and reducing its staff from 43 to 22 people.

Wivell said the county has to come up with a better way to get residents to license their pets, which could result in more revenue for the shelter. Pet licenses now generate about $18,000 a year, Wivell said.

Humane Society Executive Director Paul Miller could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

County Commissioner John C. Munson said in an interview Wednesday that it appears animal control services "are getting pretty darn expensive," but that the services are necessary.

"If you don't have it, what would you do?" Munson asked.

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