Tuesday June 30, 2015

The animal welfare group CAWS has asked the Delta County Commissioners to make a $25,000 donation to its efforts in 2015.
A group of 10 CAWS board members, employees and volunteers were at the commissioners’ meeting on Monday to hear JoAnn Kalenak of Paonia make a presentation to the commissioners on the need for increased county funding.

The BoCC donates $2,500 annually to each of four animal welfare groups in the county to help pay for spay and neutering. “And we are very grateful for that,” Kalenak told commissioners.
But the county’s donation is for the spay and neuter programs only. “CAWS receives nothing for shelter operations or for animal control” from the county, Kalenak noted, and that need is growing.
For example, during 2013 alone, the four animal welfare groups in the county took in a total of 516 dogs and almost 400 cats. But, Kalenak said, the available resources including shelter space those groups have has been “completely saturated” for the past three years. “We are taking all the animals that we can,” she said.
In fact, space is such a critical need that CAWS presently turns away 60 percent (six out of every ten) callers that come to it for help with their pet problems.
“The sad truth is, that’s part of the reason we’re here today,” Kalenak said.
Since  its founding in 1998, CAWS has rescued more than 3,500 dogs and cats. “We always have been a county-wide rescue operation,” Kalenak told the BoCC.
In 2012, CAWS opened its adoption center in Delta under agreement with the City of Delta, focusing its efforts on city-sourced animals.
Last year CAWS began taking in animals from the unincorporated area of the county. A planned $15,000 shelter expansion in concert with the city this year will improve the exercise yard and add shelter space, according to a CAWS information advisory. The advisory also explains that the city contributes in-kind support to CAWS equivalent to 24 percent of its annual budget.
And CAWS is also a diligent steward of its money.  Kalenak said that 94 percent of its money (2013 budget $90,244) goes to its “primary operations (i.e. direct animal care, payroll for three employees, and facilities costs).
CAWS  “is in dire need” of an isolation room for new arrivals. “We don’t even take in any puppies because of the parvo epidemic in the county,” Kalenak said.
At the same time, there is a budget crisis brewing for animal assist organizations everywhere. For several reasons including the recoverless  national economy, grants for CAWS are down 82 percent this year. There has been a 30 percent drop in thrift store sales that help support the shelter.
Both of those factors are combining to create a $28,000 loss for CAWS from its 2014 budgeted figures, according to the group’s advisory.
Kalenak’s presentation stated that in 2014, over 60 percent of the animals taken in at the shelter have come from the unincorporated county area. “We need your help,” she said.
The Delta County Sheriff’s Office several years ago ended its program of managing stray and nuisance animals. It does still have a program for dealing with vicious animals in the county, said Sheriff Fred McKee.
“We are heavily involved with vicious animals in the county, and we are very dependent on CAWS for their work with the strays and nuisance animals,” McKee said at the commissioners’ meeting.
He roundly endorsed CAWS and the work that it does and asked that the commissioners carefully consider any financial help the county can give the organization.
CAWS is a “no kill” shelter. It will keep animals until they are adopted without time limit. For dogs, that averages 28 days; for cats the average is 94 days, Kalenak said. Some animals may be euthanized, but only for humane reasons in cases of extreme illness or true viciousness.
The county will finalize its 2015 budget in December, and that is when there will be a definite answer to CAWS’ request for funding next year, explained county commission chair Bruce Hovde.
Ever since 2003 when county voters soundly defeated a proposed use tax to fund county wide animal control (1,402 for: 7,363 against), commissioners have refused to use local tax dollars for that purpose. If commissioners decide to make additional money available for CAWS’ request, it will likely come from annual state mineral severance and federal mineral leasing payments. Those payments can vary greatly from year to year and are usually determined in the fall.
The county administration is taking letters now from organizations that want their contribution requests to be included in budget deliberations for  the 2015 budget.
County administrator Robbie LeValley reports that notices have gone out  to groups asking that requests be submitted in writing no later than Sept. 12.

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