Janesville City Council discusses stray animals, pet licensing during budget study session
JANESVILLE—The city wants to spend half as much on stray animal control next year as it has in the past, but the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin says that's not viable.
The Janesville City Council had its first budget study session Tuesday. After City Manager Mark Freitag gave a presentation outlining the proposed 2018 city budget, council members asked staff members questions, many of which centered around the city's proposal to spend $62,500 on stray animal control—half of what it has paid in the past.
Since 2014, the city has paid the humane society $125,000 a year for animal control. The deal has allowed residents or police to drop off stray animals found in the city at the society at no additional charge.
In an effort to save money, the council in August asked the city to explore the possibility of saving $62,500 by paying only half for such services.
Chief Dave Moore said he reached out to Frazier and asked what services the society could provide the city for $62,500. Moore didn't receive a reply, he said.
"We're just looking for a continued conversation. We just haven't had that," Freitag said.
Humane society Executive Director Brett Frazier said that's not true.
"I have been clear with Chief Moore that I cannot achieve that contract goal without some plan by the city on how to reduce the number of stray animals significantly," he wrote in an email to The Gazette.
Frazier said the proposed contract amount isn't enough for the current level of stray animal control services.
"(The) $62,500 will not allow us to provide them any meaningful service. It's frustrating that they keep pretending that that figure is an option to handle the 1,000 stray animals the city and its citizens bring us each year," he wrote.
Council President Doug Marklein instructed Moore to do his best to get an answer. Councilman Jens Jorgensen said he hoped the city could find a way to fully fund animal control services.
Councilwoman Sue Conley said the society might not agree to a contract offering only half of what has traditionally been paid. If that happened, it could cost the city more than $125,000 to find an alternative, she said.
Conley asked if the city could increase pet licensing fees to help make up the missing $62,500.
City Clerk/Treasurer Dave Godek said he's spoken to Frazier about that possibility. He also described a method another city uses designed to encourage more residents to license their pets.
Wausau has an ordinance that requires all veterinary clinics in the city to report the number of residents who have gotten rabies shots for their pets each month. Wausau then cross-references that information to see if those pets have been licensed. If not, the city mails the residents demanding they license their pets, Godek said.
Since the ordinance has been in effect, the city of 39,000 has 6,000 registered pets. Data of how many pets were licensed before the ordinance was in place wasn't immediately available, he said.
Still, if Janesville had an equivalent percentage, the number of licensed pets would rise from about 5,900 to 9,450, Godek said.
Many vets in Wausau oppose the law. They're losing business and customers because residents think the clinics are selling out unlicensed pet owners to the city, he said.
It's unclear if Janesville would make money from such an ordinance. There would be costs to implement it, and if the ordinance resulted in more pet licensing compliance, it would make sense to lower fees instead of raise them, Godek said.
Councilman Jim Farrell asked if it would be possible to pay the society a fee per stray animal it takes in instead of flat, contracted rate each year.
City staff will further research the issue before the council's next budget study session Wednesday, Oct. 25.