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It’s time to get this issue resolved

By Staff | Nov 17, 2013

It seems the story in last week’s Register concerning the most recent Blue Earth City Council meeting caused some confusion among some of our readers, and concern from others.

The story dealt with the death of a dog.

Both the confusion and the concern are not surprising.

The portion of the meeting which featured the discussion of the dog being removed from the animal pound/shelter and later euthanized featured heated debate, emotional responses and often confrontational accusations.

First, some background.

The Faribault County Humane Society has been operating the Blue Earth City Animal Pound for a couple of years. When it was first set up, some thought it was a win-win situation. The city needed someone to run the pound and the humane society wanted to help rescue animals and find homes for them.

A contract was written and signed.

That contract expired last Dec. 31 and a new one has been in the process of being rewritten and agreed upon. After nearly a year, it has yet to be signed. That means the city and humane society are operating the shelter using agreements made in the previous contract.

Two other factors are delaying the formation of a new contract agreement.

The city is working with the county to hire a new animal control officer who will not only handle stray animals in Blue Earth, but in other areas of Faribault County as well. They are also working with cities in the county interested in using the Blue Earth animal shelter for their stray animals, too.

Staci Thompson, the member of the humane society at the city meeting, said the society was upset that they were not part of this process. She has since said she wants it clear that by being involved in the process, she is referring to the agreements with the other cities, not the actual hiring of an animal control officer.

After all, she says, the humane society operates the shelter for Blue Earth, so they should be in on these discussions. The city however, owns the animal shelter and as the owner wants to negotiate these contracts themselves.

Here is how that current agreement works.

The city pays for some of the costs of the animal shelter, such as heat and lights. They also pay the humane society $5 per day per animal for the care of the animals in the shelter.

The humane society members volunteer their time to take care of any animals that are there.

If no owner claims the animal after 10 days, the city quits paying the $5 and the humane society finds foster homes for the animals.

If an owner does come forward, they pay an impound fee of $20 plus a fee of $22 per day for the care and feeding of the animal while it was in the pound. That fee is paid to the humane society and is earmarked to go for improvements to the animal shelter.

That is the plan anyway.

In the case of Buddy, the dog that was euthanized, last week’s story in the Register had a few minor inaccuracies due to what was stated at the meeting and an earlier one that also dealt with this subject.

Buddy was taken to the pound on Sept. 10, not Sept. 1 as reported. The bill for his impoundment now stands at $1,197, not the “over $900” figure listed in the story. That figure came from an earlier meeting when a settlement between the city attorney and the dog’s owner’s attorney was announced.

The dollars work out like this. There is a $20 impound fee, $11 rabies shot cost, plus the $22 per day fee. In Buddy’s case, he was in the pound for 53 days.

Much of the confusion comes from the billing, however. Does the city do the billing or does the humane society? Who collects the fees and who does all the bookwork? Does the city pay the humane society the fee whether it is collected from the owner or not?

At that last meeting, the mayor said the humane society would receive its money whether the owners pay it or not. But does the city actually owe that fee to the humane society?

It is precisely this type of confusion that needs to be solved by having everything clearly spelled out in the next agreement should it ever be finalized.

Several things need to happen and should be done expediently.

A new agreement between the city and the humane society needs to be reasonably, rationally and calmly worked out. Soon. Before an entire year goes by without one. (Or else take Plan B, which would be to dissolve the relationship and go back to the city running its own pound.) Also, all effort should be made to have a new animal control officer hired by the end of the year and agreements in place with any other entities that wish to be involved with the city of Blue Earth and the use of its pound.

This seems like a perfect way for area towns to cooperate in solving a problem they all share.

And finally, a solid plan for a new animal pound/ shelter should be decided, which would include plans of how to fund it and when to build it. Both the city and the humane society say that the current building is woefully inadequate and a new facility is necessary.

It is one of the few things the two entities actually do agree on.