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City, humane society at impasse over cost of animal control

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Saturday, October 21, 2017

JANESVILLE—The city of Janesville and the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin have reached an impasse.

On Tuesday, the Janesville City Council debated halving the annual payment to the humane society from $125,000 to $62,500.

On Thursday, Janesville Police Chief David Moore and Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin Executive Director Brett Frazier met again, but nothing changed, both sides said.

At stake is an estimated 1,000 Janesville pets and strays that end up at the humane society each year.

The $62,500 in savings could be enough to hire an employee the city needs, such as a  police officer, a second IT help desk technician, a housing director, a human resources generalist or a firefighter, city officials pointed out at a recent meeting.

Janesville City Council President Doug Marklein earlier described picking a police officer over animal control services as "a no brainer."

COST HISTORY

Since 2014, Janesville has paid the humane society a flat fee of $125,000 to care for and find homes for strays and lost pets.

The $125,000 fee is part of an estimated $280,000 the humane society receives from 24 municipal units. The majority of Rock County towns, cities and villages contract with the society for services.

The humane society's annual budget is about $1 million, with much of it coming from donations, Frazier said.

Three years ago, the city and humane society had a similar debate about how much the city should pay.

In 2014, city officials considered cutting $60,000 from the $125,000 contract and requested the humane society no longer accept cats.

But a crowd of people showed up at the city council meeting and asked the city to reinstate the full amount.

At the time, Councilman Jim Farrell called $125,000 “reasonable” and compared it to earlier years when the humane society billed the city on a per-animal basis. In some of those years, the total as much as $200,000.

In 2010, for example, the city council budgeted about $250,000 for animal control.

COST CUTS

This year's budget discussion started with the city council directing city administration to investigate paying the humane society half as much for animal control services. Moore asked Frazier what the society could offer for $62,500.

The amount would “not allow us to provide them with any meaningful service,” Frazier told The Gazette in a previous interview.

Frazier said part of the problem is that Janesville doesn't have a specific policy or philosophy regarding stray and found animals. In other places, he said, those policies range from:

-- No care for certain kinds of animals.

-- Killing animals after a certain number of days at the shelter.

-- Not killing any animals.

Janesville has rules about pets. But a philosophy?

"If the city had a philosophy, I think it would be driven by economics," Moore said.

One idea would be to contract for dog-only services. Under such a contract, the city would not pay for any cats delivered to the humane society. The cats would be turned away or the humane society would have to raise additional money to care for them.

“He said he wasn't interested in doing that,” Moore said.

Frazier said leaving cats out of the contract would be losing proposition for everybody.

The stray cat population would explode, and the humane society feels like it's been making inroads on that issue, Frazier said.

The society gets about $400,000 a year from donors, and those donors won't give to an organization that does not take in all companion animals, Frazier said.

“The citizens of Janesville have spoken pretty loudly on this issue,” Frazier said. “The community wants a place for cats, monitor lizards, rabbits—all companion animals.”

Ultimately, it will be up to the community and its elected representatives, he said.

“A city budget is a list of community priorities,” Frazier said. “This community believes in having a safe place for dogs and cats.”



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