One thing I’ve learned in life is that actions speak much louder than words. For example:
For 2019 through 2021, the actual expenditures vs budget (something most businesses would examine) for Columbus Animal Care and Control speaks volumes.
A total of $3,671,745 was budgeted yet only $3,217,861.92 was spent, $453,884 left on the table. This is a banner accomplishment for businesses who are looking for profit. Yet we are talking about Columbus Animal Care and Control. Here when money is “saved”, lives are impacted and more will be spent in the long run.
Over the same three years, the city spent a total of $74,069.29 in veterinarian services, for 12,917 impounded animals, less than $5.73 per animal. The city says they vaccinate all animals on intake (a step which helps reduce disease and saves more serious medical costs in the near future), yet we know the lack of adequate staffing has not allowed this protocol to be followed consistently. After vaccinations, there is little to nothing left for parasite treatment, antibiotics, or pain management during the required stray hold. And for those that stay behind those five days of stray hold, there are just prayers.
Prison inmates provided cleaning labor for years until changes in state protocols reduced their availability and then covid took that away. Yet there have been no additions to the city’s payroll for animal control to fill the gap. Just too few employees with added responsibilities on their job description.
This while the city proudly promotes Columbus as a No-Kill Community.
During this time, the city’s adoption rate dropped 55%. Return to owners saw a drop of 14% and it’s even lower through July of this year. Rescues offset these losses with an almost 20% increase in the number of animals they saved.
So who is responsible for the city not killing for space? How much medical care for the impounded (much less injured) does the city plan for? What community outreach has the city provided to promote responsible pet ownership? What has the city done to promote spay/neuter opportunities?
The city's actions have shown there is no interest in going beyond meeting minimum standards. My involvement with the privatization efforts showed me the city budget barely meets recommended shelter staffing, much less for things like power, water, supplies and animal care. First they don’t budget enough. Then they don’t even spend that.
I knew we were going backwards. I just didn’t realize how much we have enabled the city to remain operating at status quo while bragging about what the community does for our animals. Instead of striving for a progressive shelter, their actions shout out POUND.
Sorry for the very long read but I have to speak out about the complete waste of time trying to move forward with the city having a progressive animal control. During Tuesday (August 9) morning’s council meeting, Mr. Hugley confirmed he has stopped discussions about privatizing based on media stories. City decisions are being made based on rumor and assumptions with no effort to have direct communication. There has been no attempt by the city to discuss anything with Paws in the last 8 months in spite of what was said on July 26th (available to watch on YouTube, animal control discussion starts at 2 hours, 7 minutes). This just confirms my assumption the city never planned on funding animal control on the level needed to move past being a dog pound. Once the city was told last year that Paws was not prepared to supplement the contract services with donated funds, I believe there was no future. Yet it takes a year and coming close to slandering Paws for the city to have their exit plan.
The next day the most animals killed in one day in almost four years happened. While the public is ultimately responsible for their being such a high demand, the reality is the city has been playing games for far too long and refuses to be proactive.
Below is an email I sent to the council and the mayor on Monday the 8th. I just couldn’t let the statements made at the July 26th meeting go unchallenged. Most of their comments were just ignorant. I received zero responses from this or the May 16th email mentioned below which discussed the need for more personnel at Columbus Animal Care and Control along with other things. (Paws’ proposal had 30+ positions, the city 19). We now know the answer to my question.
I would like to address some points discussed in the surprise July 26th council presentation discussing privatizing animal control services.
I’ll start with Ms Goodwin’s comment that Paws would be getting everything on a silver platter. With the current staffing issues (please see my email of May 16th which was sent before the recent rise of covid impacting them further) the situation is anything but on a silver platter. This is in no way derogatory toward the current staff who only can do so much. If the situation continues as it is today by the time a contract could be executed, I’m scared to think where it will be.
Mayor Henderson incorrectly stated that Paws would fundraise to support their efforts under this contract. So a non-profit, who is struggling to continue their services at the level expected by themselves and the public in today’s economic conditions (similar to everyone in the industry nationwide), is supposed to take fundraising efforts away from their needs to support the city? Does the city expect to pay somewhere near the current budget amount and receive the level of service presented in the Request for Proposal by expecting the vendor to conjure up the balance needed? They are delusional, especially when the city also expects to receive all the income produced. The intent of Paws from day one of discussing this possibility of tackling this challenge was that it be a stand-alone venture, supporting itself.
Mr. Davis was the first to express concern about Paws' understanding of the depth of services needed and once again mentioned picking up dead animals. First of all Paws understands the requirements of the services. They have a full proposal, including staffing and training of all personnel beyond what is currently provided and their current director is a former Animal Control Field Officer for the city. We feel we have a better understanding of the needs and responsibilities than some council members. Second, Mr. Davis may want to look at how often the position for picking up dead animals has been vacant in the last year. Thirdly, the last call I made about a dead deer at my driveway I was told to call 911. I do not feel that the stressed 911 department should be bothered with such and did not call. The buzzards took care of it in two days while fortunately not causing any car accidents.
Mr. Allen mentioned dealing with a non-profit is different than a business. Just because an entity is not in the business to make a profit does not mean it is not a business. Every corporation has a board who is responsible for its operations. The board does not usually take care of the day-to-day operations but provides oversight and direction. While the board membership may have rotating positions every two years, it is a small percentage of membership and provides new energy with new insights yet all remain
bound by previous commitments. Also his mention of the depth of services (and thanks to Ms Short’s presentation we know hogs are a problem in his area), that already is contracted work not done by city employees.
Mr. Hugley’s statement of how the job “looks easy” shows how out of touch with reality he is. If things were doing so well there would not be all the phone calls and emails. We are in the building daily and see how the current staff is under-supported and close to breaking. Paws is fully aware of the many daily challenges and is willing to provide the additional personnel and resources to do the job so citizens won’t have the need to make calls to council and other city staff about issues.
Ms Thomas was correct in saying things are falling apart. The department is severely understaffed and it is not reasonable to demand the level of service our citizens expect. So the city can either hire enough staff to run the center efficiently, hire a contractor to do the job, or agree that they don’t want to be anything other than a dog pound. The average yearly amount spent in direct animal care over the last three years is less than $55,000 while impounding over 4,300 animals (so less than $13 per animal). That speaks volumes. Just food for the stray hold week and vaccines could use that. So no funding for holding animals for an extended time past a stray hold to give them time to find a new home. Another example of how too many in government believe in only meeting minimum standards instead of looking at how investing a little more up front saves much more over time. Animal control's savings today will not only cost the city but also all the rescues that work with them exponentially more in the coming years.
Is the city going to continue acting like they have any interest in a quality center or will they come clean and admit they will not commit the needed funds?