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Humane Society needs aggressive spay program

November 05, 2004

In April, Dana Moylan, president of the Humane Society of Washington County, asked the Washington County Commissioners for more money.

Not only did the Humane Society seek a $362,000 addition to its current fiscal year budget, but also said that the $769,000 proposed for the next fiscal year was $421,000 short of what was needed to do the job.

Moylan said the request was necessary because the county had shortchanged the society by $1 million for animal-control costs over the past three years.

If the money wasn't forthcoming, Moylan said, the society might have to operate without sufficient staff and turn away animals.

The county put the request on hold, pending a study of society expenses. Commissioner Doris Nipps questioned why the center needed 33 employees, which she said would mean 10 per shift if the shelter were open 24 hours a day.

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In May, despite the fact that the county staff recommended a $250,000 increase, the commissioners gave the society only an additional $14,600, or a 3 percent boost.

However, the commissioners set aside $245,000, which they said might be given after they studied the society's expenses.

In July, Paul Miller, the society's executive director, announced a hiring freeze until funding issues were worked out.

On Tuesday, the commissioners gave the shelter its $250,000 after most of the commissioners were satisfied that the Humane Society has been working to cut costs.

Staff has been cut in half, volunteer hours have increased to fill the gap and the society also has trimmed its budget request.

But the one thing that will reduce costs permanently is to cut the number of animals being brought to the shelter.

In April, society officials predicted they would have to handle 1,400 more animals this year than last. Obviously, more needs to be done on the spay-and-neuter program, presently funded with the $18,000 a year that comes from dog-license sales.

Commissioner William Wivell, who's been working with society officials, notes that other counties have used mobile programs to cut the number of animals handled in half.

This is not the biggest item in the county budget, but if there's a way to save money and prevent the needless deaths of many animals at the same time, let's go for it.

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