Humane Society may get out of dog business
In a proposal that was met with interest but some skepticism, the Morgan County Humane Society has offered to lease space connected with their dog adoptions to the county’s Animal Control division for $1 per year.
Humane Society President George Farnham made the offer at the Thursday, January 26 meeting of the Morgan County Commissioners.
He explained that the proposal would relieve his group of the financial burden of running the dog facilities and allow the county to move from their current location along Martinsburg Road.
County officials have been discussing the need to expand or move their Animal Control facilities to a more suitable location for several years.
“Our future efforts will now be solely based on the care and placement of cats,” Farnham told the commissioners.
He pointed out that under state law, the county has a legal responsibility to deal with dogs, but isn’t mandated to handle cat issues.
Farnham said after 33 years and 2,000 successful dog adoptions, the Humane Society would no longer handle dogs. The dogs at the shelter will be adopted out by the group and won’t be euthanized or turned over to the county, he said.
The Humane Society has offered to lease 17 large indoor/outdoor kennels, two large dog runs, an intake building, a three-room isolation building, storage shed and office building to the county for 10 years.
The current Animal Control shelter has just six kennels.
Under the proposal, the Humane Society stipulates that the county “maintain certain standards of care for the dogs,” including
daily kennel cleaning, rabies vaccinations
and treatment with flea medicine, if necessary.
The group also wants the county to provide an employee or volunteer during the shelter’s operating hours so the public can view dogs held in the kennels.
“We realize these standards would require an increase to the Animal Control budget, but we believe that if the county agrees to this proposal that Morgan County could end up with the best-run Animal Control facility
in the state of West Virginia,” the proposal stated.
Farnham encouraged the commissioners to hold a public hearing on the idea.
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson backed the proposal, saying: “I agree 100%. I see it as a win-win-win situation.”
Noting the ongoing attempt to improve the current dog facility or find another place to build a larger kennel, she said: “I almost see this as a godsend.”
Hutchinson agreed the larger kennel size would be a challenge for the Animal Control staff, which includes one full-time officer and two part-time assistants. She said there may be creative ways to cover the added work.
“I think on the surface it sounds really good,” said Commissioner Brad Close.
“It seems out of left field and I appreciate that kind of thinking,” he said.
But Close deferred to Animal Control officer Holly Jack to get her opinion.
Animal control view.
“I agree on the surface that it would solve some of our problems,” Jack said.
The ability to quarantine dogs suspected of being sick would be a real help to maintaining the health of all shelter dogs, she said.
“And the rent is certainly reasonable,” Jack said of the $1 annual lease fee.
“It does cause somewhat of a problem with one Animal Control officer, with the increase in space and volume of dogs and an increased work load,” she said.
Jack noted that the visibility of the Humane Society facility would be an advantage in dealing with the public. She said she supported any move that would improve the health of the dogs.
“It will be a challenge for people at the Humane Society because we can’t always save everything. Some dogs come to us sick and can’t be saved,” Jack said.
The Humane Society operates as a no-kill shelter, but county Animal Control does euthanize dogs that can’t be adopted out.
Close asked Farnham what kind of transition time the Humane Society was looking for, in cutting out dog services.
Farnham hoped to “fast-track” the move and thought they would only need 90 days to adopt out their current dog population.
Commission President Stacy Dugan asked if the Humane Society property and facilities are for sale.
“It’s not currently for sale, but we would be willing to consider that or a lease/purchase agreement,” Farnham said.
Close asked if the county could get a right of first refusal, in case the group decided to sell its property.
Farnham said that was definitely an option. He deferred to the group’s attorney, Tina Byers, to draft a contract for Prosecuting Attorney Debra McLaughlin to review.
“Before we schedule a public hearing, we need to take a hard look at what additional costs there will be for us,” Close said.
He suggested creating a committee to talk about how the county would transition from its small kennel to the larger facility.
Hutchinson, Jack, Farnham, Byers, Administrator Jody McClintock and the current Humane Society shelter manager plan to meet this week to discuss the issue.