Humane Society plans next step

Published 7:20 pm Friday, October 14, 2011

The Bainbridge-Decatur County Humane Society is planning its next move after their request for additional funding of its animal shelter was denied by county commissioners.

At the same time, county officials are sympathetic of the abundance of animals coming into the shelter, but said tough financial conditions prevent the county government from doing any more than it’s already doing.

Earlier this year, the Humane Society asked for the county to pay $60,000 a year to help upkeep the Humane Society’s animal shelter, which is used to house animals collected by the county’s animal control officers. The county, instead, budgeted $40,000 a year, leading to the Humane Society’s request for additional funding.

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However, a motion that would have granted the Humane Society a compromise of $50,000 annually from the county failed by a 3-3 vote.

The Humane Society’s board of directors met after the decision to discuss their next move, but Chuck Lewis, the society’s president, said plans are still being discussed, adding he may have more to say next week.

Humane Society supporters want county commissioners to agree to an annual, flat-rate contract, like the one the society has with the City of Bainbridge. Currently, the county government pays the Humane Society for each dog or cat it brings into the shelter, which was built by the City of Bainbridge but operated by the Humane Society. The county pays the society about $15 per animal, per day—up to three days—plus other expenses.

County Administrator Tom Patton said the $40,000 that commissioners allocated for animal control this year was based upon county officials’ keeping of statistics that showed a decline in the number of animals being taken to the shelter by county animal control.

In 2010, the Humane Society collected $55,885 from the county, and in 2009, it collected $28,190.

“Of course, we’d like to be able to support the Humane Society and other worthwhile programs to a greater degree if we could,” Patton said. “But right now, we just don’t have the money. We had to have a slight tax increase just to balance our budget as it is.”

In the past, former Humane Society President Pam Immendorf has argued that the county government has limited its spending on animal control by making use of an animal relinquishment form. Both the Humane Society and the Sheriff’s Office—which administers animal control outside Bainbridge—agree the form is meant to be used by people who decide they can no longer take care of an animal and want to turn it over to the shelter, instead of letting it become stray or abandoned.

When the county’s animal control officer brings in an animal whose caretaker signed the relinquishment form, the shelter waives the $15-per-day fee. Captain Rick Ashley of the Sheriff’s Office, who supervises both the county’s code enforcement and animal control functions, pointed out the form was generated by the Humane Society itself and is only used in a “minority” of cases.

“We only use [the form] in cases where it is clearly applicable,” Capt. Ashley said. “Stray animals or animals that have just been fed by someone for a week or so aren’t considered relinquishments.”