Rock County Humane Society rebuilding bridges

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

JANESVILLE—Don't count your kittens before they're hatched.

Burning bridges is easy, but building bridges means you'll have to attend a lot of night meetings.

These days, Rock County Humane Society Executive Director Brett Frazier finds himself turning the traditional formulas on their heads in an effort to restore the humane society's role as a home for lost and homeless animals.

In January, only 10 of Rock County's 28 towns, cities and villages had contracts with the humane society.

Frazier has met with “almost every municipality” in the past several months in an effort to regain the trust—and stray animal contracts—those municipalities used to have with the humane society.

“I believe we have firm commitments from 16 municipalities, and we are still working with three,” Frazier said. “It all depends on budgets, and I don't want to count my chickens before they're hatched.”

To keep the humane society going, the organizations needs about $300,000 in animal control revenue. Many of those contracts were dropped when the previous director, Angela Rhodes, and the human society board changed the way contracts were handled.  Rhodes and the board increased the costs of the contracts because they believed the increases more accurately reflected the costs of caring for animals. They also believed contracts that excluded cats from pick up didn't reflect their mission.

Local officials pointed out that the cost of having the humane society care for a litter of kittens could ruin a town's carefully crafted budget.

Since he started in June, Frazier has been making the rounds, attending town and village board meetings.

He's worked with each municipality to develop a flat fee—rather than a per-animal—arrangement.

The fee is based the number of animals that historically came to the society from the municipality. It also is based on population.

“Another nice part of the flat fee arrangement is that we get out of the business of telling people which animals are important,” Frazier said. “For the municipalities, it allows them to budget, they know they're not going to get a scary bill.”

The village of Orfordville was one of the municipalities that never ceased working with the Rock County Humane Society.

Earlier in October, village officials approved a flat fee contract with the humane society.

Before Rhodes tenure, the village was charged per animal, but officials could approve what animals were delivered to the humane society, said Sherri Waege, village clerk.

The community is small enough that somebody usually knew whose stray dog was loose.

“We had a lot of repeat animals,” Waege said. “Sometimes we just kept them here in the office.”

Then, the humane society changed its policy, and village officials no longer had any say over what animals ended up at the shelter.

As other town and municipalities began to drop their contracts with the humane society, village officials discovered that they were paying for animals that came in from other areas of the county.

All Waege had to do was look at the paperwork from the humane society to see that people from outside the village were dropping off or reclaiming animals.

“The costs kept going up every year. We just had no control,” Waege said. “A litter of kittens would cost $600, and when you only budgeted $1,000 for animal control, that was a lot.”

Officials can't create an accurate budget without knowing how many kittens or other animals to budget for.

Frazier, who served on the Milton City Council for four year and now is Milton mayor, said he understands.

“If you budgeted for 10 animals and it goes to 20 animals, it's going to throw the budget out of whack, and that means somebody's road doesn't get fixed,” Frazier said.

The town of Turtle probably will not contract with the humane society, said Roger Anclam, town board chair.

He's concerned the human society board responsible for the oversight of Rhodes is still in place.

And then there's the money.

“We've been able to handle the dog situation for a lot less than we would if went with the humane society,” Anclam said. “We've got inside and outside dog runs. We've also been very fortunate to get a lot of help from Friends of Noah.”

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