City funding uncertain for Central Missouri Humane Society

Friday, July 24, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:27 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 24, 2009

COLUMBIA — Representatives from the Central Missouri Humane Society asked for an additional $80,000 in funding from the City of Columbia at a City Council work session Wednesday evening.

CMHS's budget was $876,500 in 2008, and executive director Patty Forister said they are operating currently at "a bottom line."

"We're just barely making ends meet," Forister said.

While it's possible for the Humane Society to receive the full amount, Third Ward City Councilman Karl Skala isn't optimistic.

"The full amount is probably unlikely," Skala said. 

Forister said when she arrived at the shelter, its problems were a "perfect storm" and stemmed from a lack of leadership, low staff empowerment, a severe lack of funding, building problems and a weak commitment to saving animals' lives. But she said she has worked to improve things since the shelter sought assistance from the Service Corp of Retired Executives, a subsidiary of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

In 2008, the shelter conducted studies comparing Humane Societies around the nation to mid-Missouri's. One of the studies found that the root cause of the shelter's problems was the shelter taking in too many animals. Forister said if the shelter doesn't receive the money from the city, it might have to cut the number of animals it takes into the shelter or keep fewer animals.

Fourth Ward City Councilman Jerry Wade said he didn't know if there is money available for the Humane Society.

"That will have to be dealt with in the context of our discussions on the total budget," Wade said. "Right now, I simply don't know."

Budget discussions will be coming up in the next month. The council hasn't given any deliberation to the Humane Society's request, Wade said.

The Humane Society remains hopeful it will receive the full $80,000.

"I feel like we've done our homework," Forister said.

The city has a contractual relationship with the Central Missouri Humane Society where the Humane Society provides services for animal control. The contract is for around $100,000, Forister said.

If the council gives the Humane Society the $80,000, it would be the first time the city has funded the municipal animal services, Forister said. The $80,000,would be in addition to the contract the shelter has with animal control and would help subsidize the cost of animals coming through the shelter's front door.

"It's a community problem," Forister said.

The cost of caring for animals at the shelter could range from about $35 to $119, depending on several factors, including whether the animal was a dog or cat and how long the shelter had to board the animal.

The city's budget is going to be tight, Skala said. Council members are going to be preparing for the next couple of years, not just this year.

"The two key words for the budget this year are cost of service and efficiency," Skala said.

The council will start analyzing the city manager's budget in August and will be holding work sessions Aug. 26-28. The humane society will have a good idea of the funding it will receive by the end of the work sessions, Skala said.

The budget issues are expected to be settled by the end of September, and the city's budget has to be approved by Oct. 1.

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