City, Humane Society discuss financial troubles

City and Humane Society talk of raising fees for impounding animals not spayed or neutered.
Saturday, October 11, 2008 | 4:58 p.m. CDT; updated 11:30 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 11, 2008

COLUMBIA — City officials met Friday with representatives of the Central Missouri Humane Society to continue discussions on the financial problems at the Humane Society.

The meeting included discussions of updating the city ordinances, changing the contractual agreement between the Humane Society and the city and long-term planning for the facility, said Stephanie Browning, director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

The possible ordinance changes would relate to responsible pet ownership, Browning said.  The city currently charges fees to residents for the impoundment, boarding and licensing of pets.  The changes would include charging a higher fee for animals that are not spayed or neutered.

"We can update ordinances that will benefit both the Humane Society and the city," said Patty Forister, executive director of the Humane Society.

The Humane Society is trying to promote the importance of spay and neuter programs in an effort to help reduce the number of unwanted or homeless animals that are overwhelming the shelter. The city has agreed to assist with educational and promotional awareness of responsible pet ownership, including awareness of the low-cost spay and neuter programs offered at the Humane Society, Browning said.

At the meeting Friday, representatives discussed the 5 to 6 percent increase in a draft of the 2009 contract with the city, which the Humane Society presented earlier this year. The increase included an additional $984 for daytime reception and dispatching, as well as $3,096 for kennel facilities to board impounded animals. But because of recent changes at the shelter, including a decrease from 63 to 25 operational hours a week, the city has asked the Humane Society to redefine specific allocations of money, Browning said.

In a meeting on Sept. 18, the Humane Society asked the city for charitable gifts of supplies or services.  In a telephone interview Friday, Browning acknowledged some service requests, such as snow removal or lawn care, were off the table because the city contracts these services from the private sector.

"We are all trying to make the situation better, but money is tight everywhere," Browning said. "It is important for people to know that we're not competing parties. There is cooperation between the Humane Society and the city. They respect our mutual relationship."

The missions between the two parties differ, Browning said. The Humane Society has a mission of animal welfare, including the promotion of humane treatment, care and adoption of animals, she said.

"The city mission is different but compatible," Browning said. "Our mission is public health and safety. We exist to prevent rabies, bites and nuisances. We are not an animal welfare organization."

Forister agreed, defining Animal Control as an enforcement agency that works with the public and the health and safety sector.

Despite differences in mission, a combined facility might be an ideal long-term solution for both parties, Browning said. "The infrastructure at the current facility is not right. The site needs storm water improvement, renovation and expansion," she said.

The city has had preliminary discussions on the development of a city-run animal facility if the Humane Society is forced to close. Also discussed was the possibility of a new facility that houses both the Humane Society and Animal Control, Browning said. Such a facility could fulfill the mission of both parties.

"We could build it and lease it to the Humane Society. Or the Humane Society could build it and lease it to Animal Control," Browning said.

The current location of the Humane Society at 616 Big Bear Blvd. is a practical destination for a new facility, Browning said. There is a storm water issue that needs to be dealt with, but the location is well-known, accessible and in a light industrial, rather than residential, area, Browning said.

"If we can find a mutually beneficial and fair solution in a joint facility, this is the best option for the long-term," Forister said.

"It is a difficult economic time to think about a new building, but it will take time to plan," Browning said. "There is nothing to stop us from beginning the planning process now."

The plans are in the initial stages, and the city has not looked beyond the current shelter site for any future locations of a facility.

"The Humane Society needs to feel financially confident before we can move ahead," Browning said.

The next meeting between the city and the Humane Society will take place in late October or early November; the parties will further discuss the draft of the 2009 contract before a final decision is presented to the City Council.

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Ray Shapiro October 12, 2008 | 4:16 p.m.

Does the city of Columbia "partner" with any other nonprofit 501c3 agency in the same manner it has or intends to pursue with the "Humane Society?"
Perhaps a city run animal facility, aka "pound", is the proper way to go and let animal welfare agencies work with their own boards and volunteers to provide "no kill" adoption/placement programs.
A city run "pound" would have jurisdiction over their own "dog catcher." Let the animal "lovers" work it out amongst themselves.
Some one needs to point the "Humane" Society in the right direction and in my opinion it's away from city hall.
I'd rather hear about these animal welfare agencies working with MU's School of Veterinary Sciences & Dept of Human and Animal Interaction, other Vets and animal/pet retailers and wholesalers, rather then looking to our city council for "bail-out!"

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