|Rock County Humane Society may not renew stray animal contract|
|Written by Dennis HInes/Stateline News|
|Friday, 21 October 2011 14:20|
Angela Rhodes, executive director of the Rock County Humane Society, shows one of the cats up for adoption at the Janesville shelter. The size and condition of the aging shelter, coupled with rising costs, will force the shelter to end its service of taking in strays for area municipalities. Terry Mayer/staff
(Read the full story in the e-edition HERE.)
JANESVILLE — An aging facility and rising costs could force the Rock County Humane Society to drop its animal control contracts, and that has local officials facing a deadline to find a suitable replacement.
For years, the humane society has contracted with several local municipalities, including Janesville and Beloit, to take in stray animals, but those contracts will expire at the end of the year. Executive Director Angela Rhodes said the shelter might not be able to provide that service any longer because of the lack of space.
Rhodes said the shelter was constructed in 1976 and was designed to serve as a private shelter, not to house stray animals.
“We’ve always been beyond capacity, and we don’t have what we need to continue to provide that service any longer... .” Rhodes said. “Without the proper facilities and resources to take in as many strays as we do, we’re not going to be able to continue to do it.
“It’s just an outdated, depleted facility that’s kind of falling apart, and it is going to preclude us from doing that any longer, but we very much want to.”
Dean Peterson, a Janesville veterinarian, has organized a focus group to develop a solution for housing stray animals.
“It’s something we’re going to need to discuss several times. We need some place to take them if humane societies can’t take them anymore,” Peterson said. “We need to get a system in place. I don’t know what that is, but it’s something we need to look into.”
Peterson said he is concerned about the well-being of the stray animals if there is no place to take them.
“There’s the public health issue of accidents and dogs being hit by vehicles. It’s the same thing with cats being on the road,” Peterson said. “Then there’s potential for disease with them being out in the wild. There’s a lot of issues with animals being out roaming around... .
“It’s a very important issue in Rock County, and it’s an issue that needs to get under control. It’s a concern for the animals’ health and welfare.”
In his most recent budget proposal, Janesville City Manager Eric Levitt included $10,000 to study the best way to handle stray animals.
Lt. Dan Davis of the Janesville Police Department, also a member of the focus group, said he plans to continue to meet with the humane society to discuss options for taking in stray animals from local communities.
“We’ve continued to communicate with the humane society. That’s our ultimate goal,” Davis said. “(The humane society) would like to continue the service, but with the size of their facility, they are limited. We’re working toward a reasonable solution for both sides.”
This economy’s struggles are reflected in the ability of the humane society to keep up with demand.
“Of course, as the economy has gotten worse, donations are down, so that directly impacts what we can do and who we can help,” Rhodes said. “As costs go up and donations go down — quite literally in our business — that’s a deadly combination, because we would love to help every animal that is in need of shelter, and yet we can’t.”
Rhodes said the main expense for taking care of animals is medical costs. She said after the animals are placed in the intake area, they are vaccinated, de-wormed and treated for fleas. Once they become adoptable, they are spayed or neutered and undergo blood tests.
Then there are the costs for operating the animal care facility, include cleaning, electricity, staff and heating and air conditioning.
“Animal sheltering is a lot more difficult and complex than what (people) truly understand,” Rhodes said. “It’s truly population management to keep this many animals of unknown origin healthy and treatable to be able to go up for adoption.”
Rhodes said the humane society houses between 200 and 400 animals at a time. She said the cost to care for an animal usually depends on how long it takes for the animal to be adopted.
“Some animals get adopted right away, and some can be here for many months,” Rhodes said. “So it really varies widely, once it gets out of the stray hold, how much that animal might end up costing, but we don’t have any time limit for our adoptables... . Once an animal is available for adoption, they can stay as long as it takes to find their right home.
“If we have a cat or dog that stays with us for many, many months, it can be many, many hundreds of dollars to provide for their care.”
Rhodes said the number of adoptions has decreased slightly this year compared to last year but has been better than during previous years.
“It could be because of the economy that less people are adopting, because it is expensive to have a pet,” Rhodes said. “If you adopt a pet and you take good care of it, like you should, it’s not a cheap thing to do. So we’re still doing better than we have in years past, but compared to last year (adoptions are down).”
“We really do consider everything we do for the animals to be very core to what we do,” Rhodes said. “So there isn’t anything that we cut back on as far as what we provide to the animals.”
Jennifer Stacy, deputy director for Winnebago County Animal Services in Rockford, said her organization has not experienced the strain on services that other shelters have experienced.
In addition to contracts with the communities it serves in Winnebago County, they have diversified their funding with registration fees, dog tag sales and donations. A list of needed items is at www.wcasrock.org.
“We take in all kinds of strays and owner surrenders,” Stacy said.
“Usually, it’s a stray, and we don’t know where it’s from or whether it’s been running at large. We also receive a lot of surrendered pets.
Of course, rising expenses aren’t unique to Rock County. The Lakeland Animal Shelter near Elkhorn also has experienced a decrease in donations. Kristen Perry, executive director for the Lakeland Animal Shelter, said private donations are the shelter’s main source of funding.
Despite that, the shelter will continue to take in strays.
“It’s obviously more difficult with the economy being tougher,” Perry said.
The shelter hosts several fundraisers throughout the year, including a dinner, golf outing and wine tasting. Perry said staff members have worked hard the past few years to help promote the fundraisers.
The shelter takes in stray and surrendered animals and works with an officer who handles cases involving animal abuse and neglect. Perry said the number of animals that have been brought to the shelter has increased during the past few years.
“We’ve seen an increase in intakes of cats and dogs as strays as well as people surrendering their animals, because they can no longer take care of them,” Perry said. “Animals are also coming in, in worse condition. People seem to be taking longer to surrender animals, which is an added cost.”
Perry said, despite the increased costs, the shelter has not eliminated any of its services.
“We don’t want to cut services. We’re opposed to that,” Perry said. “We feel the services we provide are integral to our community. We just have to work harder to continue the services that we provide.”