The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

January 3, 2013

READER: Say no to city-run pound

CLINTON — The tax-paying citizens may have read about the increase the Clinton Humane Society has asked for from the City of Clinton.

This increase is needed in order to continue doing business with the city and providing the same services that we have since 1941.

In the past, the shelter was fortunate to be the beneficiary to some significant estates which kept us going, along with donations, memorials, memberships, etc. from animal-loving citizens.

Now, with the economy trending downward, those sizeable estates have become a thing of the past, making it necessary to ask the city for 62 percent of the actual cost of providing the services as in years past. In Mayor Vulich’s press release he stated he would veto any increase for our beloved shelter and we'd like to take this opportunity to explain what it is we do at the Clinton Humane Society and why this increase is needed.

In a year's time we provide animal care to approximately 600 animals, brought in as strays by citizens. We also provide care to approximately 350 animals, brought to us by the city’s Animal Control Officer who finds them as strays or are removed from the owner for improper care or they are owner surrenders. These numbers do not reflect the wildlife that is also brought to us by the ACO and citizens. The annual cost of caring for these animals brought in by the city of Clinton is approximately $194,785.90. This money goes to pay for food, utilities, waste removal, pest control, supplies, medications and veterinary services, etc. and employees to care for these animals. While the Clinton Humane Society is asking for $74,785.90 less than the actual cost of doing business with the city, the Clinton Humane Society tries to cover city expenses by doing a lot of fundraising, bringing in $60,000 to $100,000 every year. Running a shelter is not a money-making venture. There is never extra money to pay for repairs or improvements. Just like many people who find themselves living paycheck to paycheck in these tough economic times, we do the best we can with what we have.

The Clinton Humane Society adopted out approximately 200 animals into new homes in 2011 and again in 2012. We also work closely with many rescues, sending an additional 99 animals to rescue in 2012.

The Clinton Humane Society employs 5 full time and 7 part time and a caretaker that lives on the premises. The employees receive no benefits, no annual wage increase and no severance packages. Six part-time employees receive minimum wage. They are dedicated to the welfare of the animals first and foremost. It’s difficult to find employees, who care enough to come into work day after day to scrub cages, disinfect kennel runs, scrub snot off cage bars, scoop poop, clean litter boxes, do laundry and dishes, fold blankets and towels day after day and never call in sick because they know the welfare of the animals depends on them. Without their ongoing dedication and attention to detail, upper respiratory infection, ringworm, kennel cough, and Parvovirus, to name a few, would run rampant. If you were to ask the staff they will tell you that “It’s not just a job… it’s a lifestyle.” They offer their expertise and assistance every time they answer a call or wait on the general public who wish to adopt or find out more information about a specific animal. There are times that our employees, voluntarily and without monetary compensation, assist the public during non business hours. One employee even came to the shelter over the Christmas holiday without compensation and opened our doors so a family could be reunited with their pet and have it home for Christmas.

The Clinton Humane Society offers a crematory service to local vets and area citizens for the most reasonable prices in the area. Currently, we do not charge the city for disposing of animals that are killed on the streets and brought in by the Animal Control Officer.

We also provide many educational programs to local schools and scout troops, and we take animals to nursing homes for pet therapy. We also offer a low-cost spay/neuter program once a month for the community and surrounding areas.

The Humane Society has a euthanasia policy in place, as we take euthanizing very seriously. The Clinton Humane Society receives animals with varying degrees of health, medical condition and socialization.

Each animal is evaluated for health condition and behavior displayed within the CHS facility.

We recognize that the euthanasia of some animals may be a humane necessity due to diminished quality of life, medical conditions beyond the Clinton Humane Society’s control, and behaviors threatening the safety of staff and volunteers, the general public, and other animals.

While these considerations manifest themselves in a variety of ways, one or more should be verifiable in every euthanasia decision. We do not euthanize for singular reasons such cost of medical treatment, animal breed or age, or time spent in Clinton Humane Society's care as justification for euthanasia. There are times when, due to capacity limitations, it becomes necessary to euthanize for space. This is only done as a last resort. At the Clinton Humane Society, no animal has a time limit. Adoptable animals stay at our facility for as long as we can possibly keep them in hopes of finding that Forever Home.

Euthanasia is never routine, predetermined, or taken lightly. It is only performed after the reasonable and appropriate pursuit of all other viable options. It is always done with compassion and every effort is made to ensure the process is painless, and, to the fullest extent possible, minimizes fear and apprehension. The Clinton Humane Society believes in gentle, compassionate care even into the last minute. The Clinton Humane Society is committed to ending the euthanasia of adoptable animals whenever possible through the promotion of pet adoption, spay/neuter, and responsible lifelong pet ownership and alternatively seeking rescues when needed.

If the city council decides to vote against a contract with the Clinton Humane Society and open its own pound, there will be larger and hidden tax ramifications to the taxpayers.

There will be the cost of building a suitable facility on a suitable piece of ground. I believe Mr. Soesbe, who wrote a wonderful letter to the editor, was being conservative with an estimated building cost of $500,000. There are also costs of staffing the facility with city employees who will get city wages, health benefits, vacation and sick days. There will be a need for a crematory for disposing of animals that die at the facility and for dead animals picked up on the streets of Clinton by the Animal Control Officer.

There will also be the costs for the daily care of the animals that are confined there prior to euthanizing.

They will need at least one person to be trained in administering euthanasia.

Since their facility would likely be managed as a pound, an owner would be given typically 3-4 days to reclaim before euthanizing and all strays would be euthanized as well. In other words, a pound is not an adoption facility and most adoptable animals will be euthanized with no chance of finding a new home.

The animals we receive from the city, along with the strays that are brought in are never turned away, after all, they are the animals that need us the most and rely on us. They are the animals who are starving, cold, abused, and injured. It is our privilege to care for them in their darkest hours, nurse them back to health, and offer them the love and safe haven they so deserve, and in doing this, giving them that chance to find a loving family to call their own.

This being said, the Clinton Humane Society will continue to exist. Our concern is that the animals that need us the most will be taken to a city-run pound and immediately euthanized rather than having a chance at a new life in a new home.

In 1941 when the Humane Society opened its doors to the community, its mission was to ensure that strays and unwanted animals would have a safe place to go. In the 1990s, the community came together and raised the funds to build on to the shelter in an effort to better the environment of your local humane society. Without a city contract, these efforts will have been in vain as city strays will be taken to another facility or city pound which has yet to be built or purchased.

People of Clinton: This is your Humane Society and we will continue to serve the animals in the best way we know how. This will be on the Jan. 8 Committee of the Whole agenda and we hope you will be present to support us. Please help us to continue our efforts by contacting your council person, Mayor, and City Attorney and ask him/her to approve the city contract with the shelter so those animals that need us the most are not in jeopardy. We need your voice to be heard. The animals can’t speak for themselves and are depending on you. Please feel free to contact the shelter at 242-2457 for more information, questions or concerns you may have.

• Mayor Mark Vulich –242-6870

• City Attorney Jeff Farwell –243-3429

• Councilman John Rowland – 242-9395

• Councilman Paul Gassman – 243-5173

• Councilman Charlie Mulholland – 243-2412

• Councilwoman Jennifer Graf – 243-8816

• Councilwoman Bev Hermann – 243-5417

• Councilwoman Maggie Klaes –243-9515

• Councilwoman Julie Allesee – 259-8961

Sandi Bartels is the operations manager with the Clinton Humane Society.

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