Humane Society proposes $295,821 contract to city

Thursday, November 6, 2008 | 8:32 p.m. CST; updated 10:27 a.m. CST, Wednesday, December 10, 2008

COLUMBIA — The Central Missouri Humane Society is seeking $295,821 from the city to cover shelter services to be provided in 2009. This contract value is triple the amount the city paid the Humane Society in 2008.

The request is based on findings by the financially strapped Humane Society that more than 50 percent of the animals taken in at the shelter are from Boone County.

"We've found that 53 percent of the animal intake is coming from the local community. We are asking the city to pay for 53 percent of the resulting costs that would normally be incurred at a city shelter," said Patty Forister, executive director of the Humane Society.

The Humane Society depends on government financing because the city performs animal-control services but has no municipal shelter of its own. The current contract between the city and the Humane Society is based on the needs and the number of animals brought in by animal control alone, Forister said.

Gerry Worley, environmental health manager for the Department of Public Health and Human Services, said city and county government may not be able to accommodate such an increase in funding.

"Given the budget we're working with, there isn't that kind of money available," he said.

The city plans to send out requests for proposals to veterinarians, pet boarding facilities and entrepreneurs, Worley said. "We're trying to see who else may be able to provide these services. And we've asked people to be innovative."

If the city can find help in the private sector to provide similar animal control services for less money, Worley said, it may re-evaluate its current relationship with the Humane Society.

This year's $96,634 contract between the city and the Humane Society includes an annual payment of $56,364 for boarding impounded animals; $19,670 for daytime reception and dispatching; $10,200 for veterinary services; $9,900 for office space; and $500 for reimbursement of license fees paid by the society.

The proposed contract would cover municipal services including animal care, building occupancy, shelter operation, personnel and professional fees, and emergency or after-hours call services. The Humane Society is asking for an additional $179,102 to cover the municipal services and $15,000 to cover the call services, Forister said. That's in addition to $101,719 designated for animal control services for 2009.

The Humane Society board of directors used ZIP Code statistics to track the number of animals brought to the shelter from Boone County compared with surrounding counties. The results showed that of the 6,394 animals received this year between Jan. 1 and Oct. 24, 3,360 — or about 53 percent of the total — came from Boone County.

"This 53 percent is a really important number," Forister said. "Columbia is large enough to require a municipal shelter. Instead, we are performing all of these duties in addition to our own mission."

"These are vital services that we want to continue to provide, but we cannot bear the costs," Forister said. "We're not asking the city to solve our problems."

The proposed contract with the city does not cover all of these categories, Forister said. "We would exclude services that are related to our mission," she said, such as adoption services, development and fund-raising costs, veterinary supplies and personnel costs associated with adoptions.

In an e-mail on Thursday, Stephanie Browning, director of the Public Health Department, wrote, "I would still like to find a solution, but I am not sure we can find a way to work it out. We are going to bid to see what options exist."

No future meetings with the Humane Society are planned at this time.

If the city is unable to fulfill the proposed 2009 contract, the Humane Society will need to make additional changes, Forister said.

"If we can secure the contract, we will be able to revert to regular hours at the shelter and ensure continued operation of all services," she said.

The financial problems recently led the Humane Society to reduce its hours to help make ends meet. The shelter is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and has limited hours on other days.

"We are attempting to secure our financial future in a variety of ways," Forister said. "If the city is unable to fulfill the proposed contract, it will get a lot harder for us ... We're waiting to hear from the city, and their decision will be the springboard for what happens next."

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