• City health board opposes county move on animal shelter contract

  • Frustration is being felt all around the Independence Advisory Board of Health regarding the future of the city’s animal shelter.

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  • Frustration is being felt all around the Independence Advisory Board of Health regarding the future of the city’s animal shelter.
    Board members Thursday night said they are frustrated that an agreement between the city of Independence and Jackson County signed in the summer of 2009 – outlining the operations of a new regional animal shelter – is being ignored.
    Instead, board members say, an amendment to that contract – approved by the Jackson County Legislature on Monday and up for a City Council vote Dec. 17 – is shortchanging the city and its continued efforts to operate a no-kill shelter, while laying off current part-time employees and allowing Great Plains SPCA, based in Merriam, Kan., to hire new staff in replacement.
    “As a citizen here, I am offended by the very convoluted process that this nonsense has gone through,” Advisory Board Member Jason White said. “A long, long time ago, when I worked at the Department of Health, I learned that bad process equals bad outcome.”
    After months of not knowing what the future of the new shelter on Missouri 78 held in terms of operations, last Friday, an amendment to the 2009 agreement came forth. The County Legislature on Monday approved the amendment, as well as a separate five-year contract with Great Plains SPCA to run the shelter, effective Jan. 1.
    As the City Council prepares for an in-depth discussion Monday, the Advisory Board of Health on Thursday voted unanimously to oppose amending the original contract, adding that it should be “honored and enforced.”
    The board also sent a letter to city officials outlining the following concerns, among others, as a follow-up to a similar letter sent in late September that received virtually no feedback, said board chairman Dr. Howard Braby.
    The amendment is to the 2009 agreement – it is separate and has nothing to do with the county’s contract with an outside vendor to run the shelter, Independence Health Department Director Larry Jones said.
    “We do not have anything to do with that contract,” he said.
    As city staff have explained to him, Jones said, the financial figures outlined in the amendment for the city paying the county throughout a five-year period, as well as the sale of the land, has a zero-dollar impact on the city’s budget.
    Both White and Advisory Board Member Dr. Ralph Ruckman questioned the accuracy of the latest budget numbers presented, with White adding that they don’t match the numbers provided in an report prepared by the city’s management analyst earlier this year. That analysis looked at whether it would be cost-effective for the city to operate the shelter itself or contract under the proposal brought forth by Great Plains SPCA, separate from the bidding process the county took for vendors to operate the shelter.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I’m disgusted by this whole process,” White said. “This is just a shell game, and I’m not sure what the end game is supposed to be.”
    Ruckman also said he was concerned that the city was being charged twice for incineration services. Under the amendment, the current shelter at 875 S. Vista Ave. would continue to provide incineration services, even though no adoption shelter would being in operation.
    Currently, the city provides cremation services for euthanized animals at the shelter, as well as for residents who bring in pets that have died at home and for veterinarians who have euthanized animals.
    With numbers now available through November, the Independence Animal Shelter has put down 8.5 percent of all animals taken in, including a 3.3 percent rate in November. The animals put down in November included conditions of sickness/injury, aggressive/feral behavior or cases in which the animal had bitten someone.
    The Advisory Board of Health maintains that the facility is currently functioning as a no-kill shelter, falling below the 10 percent national threshold for euthanasia.
    From January through August, fewer than 1 percent of adoptable animals were euthanized due to overcrowding at the shelter, according to the Advisory Board of Health.
    “This issue will be rectified when the shelter services move to the new larger facility,” Braby wrote in a September letter to the County Legislature and City Manager Robert Heacock.
    Ruckman said the city already employs great grant writers and pointed to the Independence Animal Shelter’s efforts in securing grant funds during the 2011 ASPCA $100K Challenge.
    As a result of the city winning the Midwest Region portion of that challenge, Jones said, the ASPCA had approached the city to apply for an additional $40,000 grant for spay/neuter efforts. That application is on hold, he said, since the city’s future of operating an animal shelter is up in the air.
    This summer, the City Council had approved having the city run the new regional shelter, with the city originally thinking it would occupy it sometime in August or September.
    Advisory Board Member Dr. Don Potts asked Jones if he was comfortable with the original agreement approved in 2009.
    “I’m comfortable in doing whatever our policy makers want us to do,” Jones said. “...I don’t know whether we will ever be allowed to run that shelter. ... Am I ready to operate a shelter with the staff I have? Yes.”

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