Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

January 6, 2013

GT County right to get out of shelter business

Grand Traverse County officials need to toss a few more dollars into the kitty to get out of the dog and cat business; trying to bargain with the Cherryland Humane Society over a few bucks is barking up the wrong tree.

Bad puns aside, the county really must strike a deal that would see the Humane Society take in animals picked up by county animal control officers.

This is a classic case of government getting out of a business it doesn't do particularly well and letting a private sector entity do what it does best.

Under the deal, Cherryland would be paid about $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.

The county says past budget cuts have made its animal control office largely ineffective. The county has only two officers, and they spend almost half their time on administrative duties and caring for dogs at the county's shelter. An agreement with Cherryland would ease many of those administrative and shelter duties, giving the animal control officers more time to do their primary duty — looking for strays, County Administrator Dave Benda said.

Cherryland says $12 a day may not be enough to fully reimburse it for its costs; to his credit, Benda said the county will consider whatever changes Cherryland suggests.

The cost to the county will vary by the number of dogs impounded. The county would pay Cherryland about $17,000 per year for 250 dogs and closer to $24,000 for 350 dogs, according to the county Health Department.

Gere Pugh, the Health Department's finance officer, said he also expects the county will save $14,000 to $15,000 a year by eliminating the county's Keystone Road animal shelter, which the county will keep for emergency uses. That's on top of getting animal control officers out of the office and getting strays off the street and into a shelter.

That old win-win thing is one tired cliche, but when it's true, it's true.

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