Delta's search for a partner and/or volunteers to operate the city-owned animal control shelter is taking place on a broader playing field that highlights the importance of spaying and neutering cats and dogs to reduce the steady influx of unwanted and abandoned animals countywide.
For almost two years, the animal control shelter has been operated in partnership with Delta County Citizens for Animal Welfare and Shelter (CAWS).
The partnership was so successful, CAWS has outgrown the facility. CAWS plans to move its adoption center out of the shelter while it pursues construction of a much larger countywide facility.
CAWS' decision will purportedly provide space for the City of Delta to accommodate more impounded and quaranted animals. While there may be a need to house more cats and dogs, there is no increase in city funding to accomplish that task. That dilemma prompted a community meeting focusing on the future of the city animal control shelter.
Chief of police Robert Thomas and city manager Justin Clifton explained the current budget of $52,000 covers a part-time animal control officer as well as utilities, veterinary services, food, spay/neuter, etc., at the shelter. CAWS has handled shelter operations, from cleaning to adoptions. While he couldn't provide specific numbers, Chief Thomas acknowledged CAWS has contributed a "substantial" amount to the operation of the shelter.
"We don't have a lot of new resources to dedicate to the animal shelter," Clifton said. "The bottom line is, we have a great many unfunded priorities. I don't see that we're going to fill that financial hole enough to also be able to dedicate any substantial new resources to an effort like animal control. What we're looking for are partnerships, ideas, ways we can come together as a community to deal with a community problem."
Unfortunately, most of those attending the meeting represent animal welfare organizations that are facing the same problem of maxed out facilities and limited personal, financial and volunteer resources — all while the need continues to grow.
"Here's what it may come down to," Chief Thomas explained. "With the budget we've been provided, Ryla (Pavlisick) will perform animal control duties and care for animals in the shelter, but we will only take vicious animals, dog bites, quarantines, in the city. We won't be able to pick up strays."
"Until they turn vicious and bite someone," interjected Deb Fairchild, a longtime volunteer at the Cedaredge animal shelter. "If you don't take that animal in, it will end up on the street, causing problems."
Plan 2, Chief Thomas continued, would have police officers filling the role of animal control. But while they're transporting the animal and completing the paperwork, there's a domestic, a sex assault, a robbery in progress. "See the picture I'm trying to paint for you?
"The police department can't be the cure-all," he continued. "We need your help."
Robert Jurca, the only city councilmember in attendance, disagreed with the chief's "perfect storm" scenario. "I think the PD needs to be part of the solution," he said.
"I'm open to whatever the community would like us to do," Chief Thomas said. "If we want to pull someone from law enforcement duties to address animal control issues, we can do that, but there's always a consequence."
"Unfortunately the community that's here, trying to voice an opinion, is the community that's going to feel the fallout of you closing," said Fairchild. "We already take a lot of Delta dogs."
The discussion turned to possible sources of funding, from grants to reallocating funds from other city projects. Even then, Clifton warned there are other, more pressing priorities for those funds. Councilmembers make the final decision as to which projects are funded.
It was generally agreed the shelter can not be run entirely by volunteers. Cedaredge has four dedicated volunteers who put in an average of 20 hours a week, and still the seven-kennel shelter relies on an employee who works six hours a day. The Delta facility has 11 kennels.
City staff members remained hopeful someone in the room would step up as a volunteer or partner. "The problem is, the people you're asking are already giving so much," Dr. Carmichael said, referring to the representatives of the Black Canyon Animal Sanctuary, Surface Creek Animal Shelter and Delta County Humane Society who took part in the meeting.
"Certainly the city is not saying we can't do anything, just that we can't be the only solution, or if we are we'll have a very limited program," Clifton said.
Commitments were made for a few specific tasks, but the most momentum was gained when talk turned to formation of a non-profit organization to handle shelter operations, with Cedaredge being one model. Formation of a task force was also discussed, to focus on how the shelter can move forward after CAWS departs on Jan. 1.
While the future of the animal shelter remains up in the air, Clifton and Thomas said they would follow up with the animal welfare organizations that have some expertise in running shelters.blog comments powered by Disqus