The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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February 26, 2013

HERALD'S OPINION: Clinton needs new approach to animal services

CLINTON — Plan B.

That’s a term we’ve heard several times during the past few months as the Clinton Humane Society and the Clinton City Council continue to be at a stalemate over whether the city is going to continue to pay the society to subsidize its operations.

The Humane Society during the past few months has been seeking $120,000 for the next year, nearly double the $65,000 it now receives from the city. The reasons are many and varied as to why the Humane Society says it needs that increase — rising costs, declines in fund-raising and trusts that no longer exist to produce revenue. This year was similar to 2011’s budget discussion in that there were heavy-handed discussions about how the society must have an increase.

While an agreement was reached that time around, this time has been different.

It wasn’t that long ago when the Internal Operations Committee sat down with Humane Society leaders to further discuss what would happen if the city did not comply with the request. Humane Society officials were adamant at the December meeting if no contract was in place with the city by Feb. 1, the date of the contract’s expiration, the society would not be willing to work with the city. The society would be ready to move on, they said, and would not take animals on a month-by-month basis as was suggested by Clinton Police Chief Brian Guy.

The council members at that meeting said there needed to be a Plan B ready in case no agreement was reached with the Humane Society, and that more discussion was needed to get an alternative plan ready because the city did not have the money to cover the hike.

When that meeting broke up, it appeared that city officials knew there would have to be an alternate plan in the works as the Humane Society leaders were ready to walk away from the table.

So how can it be that here we are, mere weeks later, in such a quandary?

Well, it continued when the council ultimately decided to put the agreement in place with the Humane Society, on their terms, while an ad hoc committee would study an alternate method to save money on the contract with society officials. But then a veto by Mayor Mark Vulich 13 days later put those approvals on ice. The council could have overturned the vetoes, but failed to do so last week. Also failing was an agreement to pay a $40,000 subsidy to All Pets to provide services for the city.

Because there is no agreement with the Humane Society, Clinton animals are no longer being received there. All Pets was receiving dogs as detailed under the law, but with no agreement and then the standing vetoes, biting dogs now are being transported to Scott County's humane society.

It has been confusing, to say the least.

But did it have to be?

Because the Humane Society threw all its cards on the table and its leaders said they needed $120,000 or they were going to walk, they should not be surprised, as they were, when they no longer had a contract — especially when they said they wouldn’t help out after Feb. 1.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel when the council approved 5-2 to set up the tentative agreement.

That is, until the mayor vetoed it and essentially stopped any services from being provided to the city by the Humane Society.

While many say that action was ill-timed, we agree with it.

We say that because under state law, the city only has to take care of bite cases, vicious dogs and dogs running at large. We have no extra money to take care of the pets and to serve as an adoption agency. That should be done by a nonprofit organization operating independently from the city. We believe now is the time for such a group to take over the reins, whether it be the current Humane Society, which has the option of becoming a no kill shelter and tapping donations and grants from people and organizations who support that mission, or a new group that is able to obtain donations.

We also believe that our Humane Society has lost a lot of support because of internal strife over the last six to seven years and that people were fed up with seeing money go out the door for lawsuits.

All those factors lead us to believe that the council is doing the right thing by going out for proposal for animal control services.

It would have been nice if the city's plan B would have been in place, gained council approval and could have gone into effect sooner to limit confusion, but in the end, not allowing the city to be strong armed by the Humane Society is the right thing to do.

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