Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin opposes proposed city cuts
JANESVILLE—A proposal to halve the city of Janesville's spending on animal control is "shortsighted," the executive director of the local humane society said.
Brett Frazier, executive director of the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin, said he doesn't know how Janesville would deal with the hundreds of stray animals the humane society takes in each year.
"We provide a really valuable service to the community," Frazier said.
On Wednesday, the Janesville City Council discussed ways to cut the 2018 city budget. One idea the council told city administration to investigate was paying the humane society $63,000 less for animal control services.
Since 2014, the city has paid the humane society $125,000 annually for animal control. The deal allows city residents, police or anyone else to drop off stray animals found in the city at the society. The city sets aside an additional $10,000 each year for emergencies, such as rabid animals.
The society works to reunite pets with owners. Failing that, pets are put up for adoption, transferred elsewhere or taken care of in other ways, Frazier said.
"I think sometimes there's a misunderstanding that the humane society gets donated money from the city of Janesville, and we don't," Frazier said. "We're providing a service for a fee."
The flat fee hasn't increased since it was implemented because the society promised to keep its services affordable, Frazier said.
"And we've always kept that promise," he said.
But the rising number of animals taken in by the humane society each year means it is doing more work with the same annual contribution from the city, Frazier said.
The $125,000 already isn't enough to cover the cost of taking in animals from the city. The deficit is offset by thousands of donors and other revenue sources, Frazier said.
The $125,000 deal the city has with the society is far less expensive than if Janesville did its own animal control, he said.
Society officials are still discussing internally how their services might change if the city decides to pay half as much. It could mean the society takes in only cats or only dogs or cuts service in some other way, City Manager Mark Freitag said at Wednesday's council meeting.
Loose animals are a public safety issue and work against Janesville's mission to make it a destination city to live, work and play, Frazier said.
"We think stray cats and dogs wandering the streets is not fitting that modern, progressive vision for the city," he said.
Motorists swerve to avoid hitting squirrels and other rodents. If hundreds of extra stray dogs and cats were loose in the city, that hazard would increase, as would bites from stray animals, he said.
"We help animals, but we are absolutely here to help the people of this community, and we care about both," Frazier said.
The city would have to come up with an alternative to deal with stray animals, he said.
"We're just not sure how that would work," Frazier said.
The society doesn't just take in stray animals but works to lessen their impact on the community, he said.
In 2016, the humane society noticed many stray cats coming in from the Fourth Ward and Look West neighborhoods. The society encouraged residents to bring in their pets to be spayed and neutered to reduce the stray population, Frazier said.
What the city pays the humane society to deal with loose animals is minuscule compared to the whole budget, and the fee the city pays is already less than the cost of service, Frazier said. Despite the fact expenses are "absolutely" rising, the fee hasn't increased in three years, something the city probably doesn't see from other vendors, Frazier said.
"We think it's a great partnership. We just need to work together to figure out how it works within a budget," he said.
The humane society will give a presentation to the council at its Monday, Aug. 28, meeting.