Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 3, 2013

Grand Traverse near deal with humane society


TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County and Cherryland Humane Society are close to an agreement over the care of animals picked up by county animal control officers, but a Cherryland official said a proposed deal falls short of covering costs the nonprofit animal shelter expects to incur.

The county offered to pay Cherryland $12 per-day for each animal boarded at the humane society shelter. Cherryland would receive additional money for providing emergency veterinary care, vaccinations, euthanasias and other services, the proposed agreement states.

Dave Burke, president of the Cherryland Humane Society's board of directors, said the per-animal, per-day rate would not fully reimburse the humane society for use of its facilities and storage space, and for the additional administrative work associated with taking in more animals.

"I'm not sure it would be fair to our donors to subsidize that cost for the county," Burke said.

Burke met with Cherryland Humane Society Executive Director Mike Cherry and other board members this week to discuss possible changes to the county's offer.

"We're not asking them to pay for the entire facility, but we do need to get some kind of usage fee," Burke said.

County Administrator Dave Benda said county officials will consider whatever changes Cherryland suggests.

The total cost of the agreement based on the current proposed terms will vary, according to the number of dogs impounded by county animal control, said Gere Pugh, the county Health Department's finance officer.

The county would pay Cherryland about $17,000 per year for 250 dogs and closer to $24,000 for 350 dogs, Pugh estimated.

Past budget cuts rendered the county animal control office largely ineffective. The office, part of the Health Department, has only two officers who spend almost half their time on administrative duties and caring for dogs at the county's shelter.

An agreement with Cherryland would alleviate many of the officers' administrative and shelter duties, giving them more time to patrol county streets looking for strays, Benda said.

Pugh said he expects the county will save roughly $14,000 to $15,000 by eliminating costs associated with the county's Keystone Road animal shelter. The county will keep that shelter for emergency uses.

Addison Wheelock Jr., vice chair of the county commission, said the agreement will benefit both parties.

"It will give them another revenue stream and it will save us from maintaining a kennel," he said.

Benda and Pugh said they expect the deal to be finalized soon.

"It seems we've had really good discussions with the humane society," Pugh said. "I think there is an excellent chance we will pull this together in the near future."