COLUMBIA — An ordinance that could raise fees for people whose unspayed or unneutered animals are impounded by Animal Control was discussed Thursday night at the Columbia/Boone County Board of Health meeting.
The current ordinance charges pet owners an impoundment fee of $25 , plus $15 for each day or partial day that animals have been picked up and impounded by Animal Control. The proposed ordinance carries a larger fee for animals that have not been spayed or neutered.
The proposed ordinance would implement an impoundment fee of $150 for each animal that is not spayed or neutered. If the animal is impounded a second time, the fee would jump to $275. A third offense would require mandatory sterilization of the animal.
"We're trying to target the real problem," said Gerry Worley, environmental health manager for the Department of Public Health and Human Services. "People will always have the option of whether to spay or neuter their pets. They will just have to pay larger fees if the animal is impounded."
Also discussed at the meeting was the possibility of renewing the city's contract with the Humane Society. If the contract is not renewed in 2009, other ordinances will need to be updated, too.
"There are several places in the current animal control ordinance that discuss the Humane Society and if we're not going to have this relationship in the future, we need to change the language," said Stephanie Browning, director of Public Health and Human Services. "We are looking at strengthening ordinances to incentivize responsible pet ownership."
The board also discussed the role of the city and county in animal welfare services. "The problem with the Humane Society situation is the philosophical role of the city being in charge of animal welfare and whether this this our role," board member Michael Szewczyk said.
The Humane Society is having financial problems due to increased operational costs stemming from the number of unwanted or stray animals being brought to the shelter. To help make ends meet, the Humane Society has recently reduced hours and services, stepped up fundraising efforts and asked the city for charitable gifts of products or services. At a meeting with the city Nov. 3, the Humane Society board of directors presented a revised 2009 contract to the city asking for triple the current contract value.
"On our old terms, the Humane Society contract was 21 percent of our budget. The terms of this new contract result in 62 percent of our total budget," Browning said. She said the city has had a cooperative arrangement with the Humane Society for almost 40 years. At Thursday's meeting, the board discussed a future without such a relationship.
A final decision on the proposed 2009 contract with the Humane Society has not yet been made, but the city has sent out requests for proposals and asked for bids.
"The Humane Society will be able to bid as well," Browning said. "We're not giving up hope on a solution, but there is the long-term problem of how do we decrease the number of unwanted animals?"
Browning said responsible pet ownership is a large issue affecting both the Humane Society and Animal Control. "It is the root cause of these problems and must be addressed," she said.
The Humane Society offers low-cost spaying and neutering for animals of students and low-income families, said Heather Duren Stubbs, shelter relations coordinator at the Humane Society. Pet owners may call the Humane Society at 443-3893 for more information.
Health department staff will discuss and modify the proposed ordinances at the next Board of Health meeting, which will be Dec. 11.