COLUMBIA – Supporters of the Central Missouri Humane Society turned out Tuesday night in hopes of persuading the City Council to increase its budget for the animal shelter.
The city budgeted $1o0,000 to pay for animals picked up by the city's animal control this year. The shelter and its supporters asked the council to provide an additional $79,000 next year to help pay for animals the shelter receives from residents.
Mayor Darwin Hindman opened the floor for a public hearing so that the council could receive input from representatives making proposals before the budget is finalized, which will possibly happen at the next council meeting.
About 30 people attended the meeting in support of the Humane Society, and four representatives spoke on behalf of the shelter, including board member Chris Koukola and Executive Director Patty Forister.
Although Forister said the additional funding would be used only for animals from Columbia and Boone County, council members Jerry Wade and Laura Nauser expressed concerns that local taxpayers would be subsidizing services provided for other counties and cities that use the Humane Society.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe asked if the shelter had asked other cities and counties they work with for additional funding as well. Forister said that they had not, since most of the animals that end up at the shelter are from Columbia.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala suggested that about $20,000 could be taken from last year’s council reserves and given tothe Humane Society but that there would be “strings attached,” suggesting that the money would go to the shelter’s spay and neuter program. Forister said the Humane Society would be open to discussing this proposal.
In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Forister noted that Columbia is the Humane Society’s “biggest customer,” with 45.8 percent of the shelter’s animals coming from within the city.
The Humane Society has looked at shelter models in 16 comparable cities, Forister said, and 75 percent of those cities either had only a municipal shelter, run by the city, or a society shelter in conjunction with a municipal shelter.
Forister said the Humane Society does not wish to split with the city, but the shelter needs to consider alternative business models. The root of the society’s financial situation is dealing with too many animals, she said, and the next logical step is to reduce the number of animals coming into the shelter.
Having two shelters in the city would be one way to decrease intake numbers, Forister said. Another would be restricting the number of strays the society would take from within the city. Forister said the survival of the organization has to come before the needs of an individual animal.
“We’re kind of known as a bunch of bleeding hearts,” Forister said. “But we also have to be fiscally responsible.”
Forister said the shelter has streamlined operations by reducing business hours and charging a $20 intake fee for animals. Without adequate funding, she said, the shelter might have to cut services and programs, such as foster care or volunteer programs.
The shelter also hopes to continue to receive donations. “Donors have been the ones supporting the shelter all along,” Forister said.