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Janesville seeks animal control service provider, additional fees

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Jake Magee
Saturday, November 11, 2017

JANESVILLECity officials are seeking proposals from vendors that can provide animal control services next year, and the city wants a cut of the fees charged for lost pets.

The Janesville City Council on Monday will schedule a public hearing on a proposed ordinance that would allow the city to collect its own reclamation fees when people take home lost pets, according to a memo to the council.

On Thursday, the city issued a request for proposals from parties interested in providing animal control, shelter, medical care and rabies control.

The request stems from some officials' desire to trim the cost of a contract established in 2014 with the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin.

PROPOSED ORDINANCE

Anyone who loses a pet and reclaims it from the humane society must pay $35 to the society.

An ordinance city staff is recommending would tack another $20 onto the reclamation fee, and that extra revenue would go to the city. The money would partially offset the cost to provide services to lost and stray animals under the city's animal control contract, according to the ordinance.

If approved by the council, the ordinance would take effect Dec. 1.

Brett Frazier, humane society executive director, said he has an alternate solution.

Under state law, residents are required to annually license their dogs. Janesville's ordinance requires the same for cats.

The humane society licenses about 400 pets adopted each year. It wouldn't be much harder for the humane society to also license reclaimed lost pets. Revenue from the licensing effort would be comparable to what the proposed ordinance would provide, Frazier said.

"That seems like the exact same dollars … (and) the exact same effort," he said.

The licensing solution has the added benefits of being annual income, considering pets must be relicensed each year, and moving the city closer to total compliance with state law, Frazier said.

The Gazette was unable to reach city Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek for comment.

ANIMAL CONTROL

Since 2014, the city has paid the local humane society $125,000 for animal control. Under the contract, the society takes in stray animals found in Janesville, regardless of whether a police officer or resident brings them in, at no additional cost.

In August, city staff recommended cutting that amount in half, and the council agreed that staff should look into the possibility. City officials tried to work with the humane society to lower costs, but the society couldn't agree to less than the $125,000 contract.

At a recent budget study session, council members decided to reallocate $62,500 back to animal control, bringing the total up to the original $125,000.

The move leaves the proposed 2018 city budget with a deficit of more than $63,000, but the council said that could be covered by the city's applied fund balance.

The first of two public budget hearings will be held Monday.

In an effort to find cheaper services, the city issued a request for proposals Thursday. It was sent to all veterinary clinics and animal boarding businesses in Rock County and some facilities in Walworth, Jefferson and Dane counties and northern Illinois, Police Chief Dave Moore said.

Under the request, the animal control vendor must provide:

-- A facility to admit and care for animals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

-- Animal care services and humane euthanasia and cremation services for abandoned, stray and impounded animals.

-- Statutorily mandated rabies control services, including quarantine services and rabies testing.

The deadline for proposals is Dec. 4, and a committee will choose an animal control provider by Dec. 15, according to the request.

That decision affects the humane society's budgeting process, which is normally wrapped up by December. Frazier said the request for proposals means the humane society's budget won't be finalized until around Christmas.

"Our budget process has ground to halt because of this delay," he said.

Council members have told The Gazette the humane society likely will end up with the contract.

As of press time, Frazier and his staff had yet to examine the request. He said it's too early to say if the humane society will submit a proposal, but his staff feels confident the humane society provides a good level of service at a lower cost than a for-profit organization.

Frazier said the council can and should use its power to retract the request for proposals and contract with the humane society for $125,000, as the city has done for years.

It's part of being a "good partner," he said.

In 2011, Janesville and Beloit issued a joint request for proposals for animal control, shelter and care services when humane society costs were more than they are now. No one responded to it, officials said.



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