Future of stray animal control uncertain
A request for proposals to provide animal control and animal care for the cities of Janesville and Beloit can be found on Janesville's city website, ci.janesville.wi.us/.
Bids are due Tuesday, Sept. 6.
For more information, call Janesville police Deputy Chief Dan Davis at (608) 755-3149.
JANESVILLE The city might stop picking up stray cats to save money and is searching for somebody—possibly other than the Rock County Humane Society—to house and care for stray animals.
Angela Rhodes, Rock County Humane Society executive director, last year told Janesville and Beloit officials that the society would no longer pick up strays. She said her employees do not get paid enough to be on call 24 hours and to be put into domestic disputes and other dangerous situations.
Rhodes boosted what the humane society charges the cities for animal care, saying the society needed to recoup the cost of caring for strays.
Janesville and Beloit asked the society to pick up strays for one more year so they could investigate future options.
Janesville last year negotiated a fee of $130 per stray animal, and the city's animal control budget went from $114,000 in 2010 to $230,000 in 2011.
Janesville and Beloit recently wrote a proposal asking vendors to bid on providing animal control and animal care. Bids must be submitted by Tuesday, Sept. 6.
Janesville could hire its own employee to pick up strays at a cost of about $70,000, Deputy Police Chief Dan Davis said. The city could share that service with other communities, Manager Eric Levitt said.
Neither city is considering building a municipal pound, and neither city manager said his city could afford a new facility, which the humane society said it desperately needs.
Because of the $130 cost per stray, the police department might recommend to the city council that Janesville no longer be responsible for stray cats, Davis said. No statute requires that cities care for strays.
"If someone finds a stray cat with a litter of kittens under the porch, that bill can run to $2,000 pretty quick," Davis said.
The $130 cost is reduced to $65 if the animal is claimed.
The city is more concerned about stray dogs because of the bite danger and because some breeds run in packs, Davis said.
Levitt has toured the humane society's facilities and said he understands the needs. But now is a difficult time to find money for a new facility, he said.
"That's not even a topic of consideration. The city has no funds and no bond capacity to be buying facilities outside our community for anyone," Arft said.
Beloit's priority is a new police station, he said.
A new facility would cost about $2.5 million, and the design is very specific, Rhodes said.
"It's not something that can just go into an old warehouse."
Levitt said he hopes the society gives the city a proposal to provide care for stray animals.
Rhodes said she would not.
She said meeting the city's specifications would "triple" the cost per stray because it would require services that the society cannot afford even now, such as emergency veterinary services.
The $130 now charged by the society does not cover the total cost of caring for strays over the seven-day statutory period. The society picks up the difference with the goal of adopting out the animals.
The society "absolutely" wants to be the receiving and care facility for stray animals in Rock County, Rhodes said.
"But, by the same token, we can only do that if we have the facilities and resources to provide that."
"We have always been just been a private animal shelter," Rhodes said.
But that mission is complicated by the costs and requirements of holding strays for the required seven days.
If the humane society is not paid to accept strays, "We're only going to be able to accept what our donations support," she said.
"We're not going to be able to take them."
Rhodes had hoped the cities would be discussing a new shelter by now.
"We're not asking for them to build a new shelter per se," she said. "But if you want us to provide stray receiving and care to the animals in your municipality, we would have to have the facility to do that.
"This isn't a matter of me playing hardball or us choosing not to do it anymore because we just want to be this or that," she said. "At the crux of it is we can't anymore. We can limp along like we are with the current results for another year or so.
"And we'd be willing to do that," she said. "There has to be a light at the end of the tunnel."
She said it would be disappointing if the city decided to not pick up stray cats.
"How sad would that be," Rhodes said. "It comes down to that mentality that dogs are worth something and cats are not.
"What will people do with the cats?" she asked. "Is the community going to stand for that?"
"It's a concern of mine," Rhodes said. "What is going to become of stray animal care in Rock County?"