Animal control kennels fate undecided
by Jazz Clark
The Morgan County Commissioners are still in debate over whether to move their Animal Control operations from the current kennels along Martinsburg Road to kennel facilities at the Humane Society.
A motion made at the March 15 meeting of the Morgan County Commission would have approved leasing kennels at the Humane Society of Morgan County along U.S. 522 for 10 years.
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson’s motion to shift the county’s Animal Control operations to the Humane Society site got no support from her fellow commissioners.
Cost is big concern
“The main problem is the public thought the kennels would only cost one dollar per animal,” said Commission President Stacy Dugan on Monday.
“The lease we saw would have needed two part-time officers to maintain the facility. They would have to work three hours every week for each six dogs, and we have to pay part of the bills at the Human Society,” Dugan told The Morgan Messenger.
The current draft of the lease would have cost taxpayers an estimated $20,000 per year, according to Dugan.
Under the agreement, the commission would
have been responsible for electricity costs in the dog kennel, clinic and isolation rooms, and half of all other shared utilities such as sewage, water and gas/propane.
“The commission and Humane Society are two very different entities,” Dugan said. “They want to operate a no-kill facility, but we need to care for the taxpayers. You have to take a great deal of care with county budgets.”
Current kennels a liability?
All three commissioners have expressed concern that the current county-owned kennels are substandard. Also, they believe the Humane Society can house the kennels in the future, under different terms.
Hutchinson has said the county can’t wait for the future.
“This is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” said Hutchinson. “This is very much about the taxpayers; if these inhumane kennels cause an outbreak of disease we aren’t providing adequate services to the citizens of this county.”
And while the cost to move Animal Control operations to another kennel could be substantial, Hutchinson said there are ways to defer expenses.
“We could easily raise the very low adoption fees and fine people for pet-related offenses,” Hutchinson said Monday.
“There’s no reason we couldn’t use fines from people neglecting animals to run a clean safe kennel for them. I don’t agree at all that this is about putting animals before people,” she said.
Other expenses, such as attorney fees, also led Commissioner Brad Close and Dugan to question the feasibility of the lease.
“If any legal issues come up, the loser is responsible for all the fees,” said Close. “I for one don’t feel comfortable putting the commission and the taxpayers in that position.”
He also worries about the lease not giving right of first refusal, which would allow the county to consider buying the Humane Society property before it was offered for sale to others.
“Still, you can’t argue with terms. It’s a good deal and a viable lease. But our current dog and kennel fund doesn’t pay a quarter of the animal control budget now. This ‘let’s do it and find funding later’ mentality has to stop,” said Close.
Though Dugan and Close have both expressed a love of animals, the bottom line for both now is operating costs.
According to Dugan, county officials are still considering the lease offer as one of its options for Animal Control. The Humane Society is still being considered as a kennel location, but Dugan said she has no desire to jump into something prematurely if it’s not in the best interests of the county.