Humane Society's request needs some close scrutiny

April 29, 2005

The Humane Society of Washington County this week asked the County Commissioners for a 51 percent increase in funding for fiscal 2006. Society officials didn't appear to explain their request, because, County Administrator Rod Shoop said, they wanted to meet with each commissioner individually.

To their credit, the commissioners said no, which means that the request will be heard in open session, as it should be.

The budget request is for $1.16 million, almost $400,000 more than the society received this year for animal-control services. The new amount would have the county government paying 84 percent of the society's budget.

If approved, the increase would come on top of a $250,000 boost for the current fiscal year.

Part of the increase would pay for an additional animal-control officer and a telephone receptionist. Other new money would go to provide 4 percent merit pay increases, to cover a 15 percent increase in medical insurance premiums and to handle higher costs for supplies, power and propane fuel.


Reached by phone this week, Humane Society Executive Director Paul Miller said that the increase is necessary because the number of animals the society is taking in has increased.

Also, the number of complaints resulting in hearings before the Animal Control Authority has increased, Miller said, adding that documenting such claims is costly.

The Humane Society's is not the largest budget the commissioners have to review, but the size of the requested increase is of concern.

When society officials come in for their review, the commissioners need to ask the following questions:

n If the number of animals being brought to the shelter is increasing, does that mean that changes are needed to the society's spay-and-neuter program?

n Are there effective joint buying arrangements in place with other government agencies for things like fuel, office supplies and other materials?

n Is the society making full use of volunteers to help out at the shelter?

Society has a responsibility to see that helpless animals are not mistreated, even if their owners don't take that responsibility seriously. That said, it is not heartless to ask that the Humane Society make sure it is done in the most cost-effective way possible.

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