Bremel: Humane society deserves better treatment

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By Tim Bremel
Friday, November 10, 2017

I have a bone to pick with the city of Janesville administration.

To the listening audience of WCLO, most would probably consider me more of a cheerleader than a critic of the city administration. Perhaps that is why the continued friction between the city and the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin is perplexing to me.

If you have not followed the controversy brewing over the last couple of months, it boils down to this: Janesville needs animal control services. The only viable option is the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin.

Yet, this simple decision will be under discussion for three months at a minimum before it is resolved. On Nov. 9, the city's website began displaying a request for proposals, or RFPs, for animal control services. The proposal deadline is Dec. 4. Allow me to make my prediction on how many proposals the city will receive: 0.

That number increases to one if the humane society bows to the process and submits its proposal to do what it has been doing for Janesville residents for years: Accept stray pets and get them to new or existing homes for whatever the city has in the animal control budget.

I'm mystified as to why each budget year seems to equal another dogfight between the city administration and the humane society. It is unnecessary and an insult to the fine work the humane society does.

It is no longer a question of dollars. The city council has approved an amount in the budget that the humane society would have accepted to continue the services agreement. The idea that there is some other equally effective (without euthanasia) and cost-effective alternative is pure folly.

The newest development is the potential addition of a new ordinance in Janesville to be unveiled at Monday's city council meeting. The ordinance would assess a city-imposed fee to pet owners who have to retrieve their pets from the humane society. This seems to me to be counterproductive as careless pet owners would be less likely to pick up their animals, putting even more pressure on the humane society.

I respect the process in which the city council does not dictate to staff the specific vendors the city uses for services. It is difficult, however, to see anything other than some unspoken underlying issue among city staff as the basis for this annual debate.

The humane society has a budget to deal with as well. In previous years, mutual agreements have been reached by the city and humane society, though Brett Frazier, humane society director, has indicated the fee does not cover the actual cost of the services. As a result, the humane society must depend on area donors and nominal adoption fees to fill in the holes of its operating budget.

Without the Janesville agreement until at least mid-December, it would be no surprise if the humane society budgeted for 2018 without that revenue.

If that happens, I suspect residents will have nowhere to take strays without being charged directly. There is a likelihood of reduced services or staff layoffs as well.

The solution to all this is simple: Extend the 2017 agreement for another year and then, if the city desires to do its due diligence, take bids next summer for the 2019 contract, while there is time for negotiation.

Tim Bremel is the host of “Your Talk Show” weekdays from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on WCLO Radio (1230AM, 92.7FM).

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