PARKERSBURG - Wood County commissioners will be visiting the Washington County animal shelter Thursday and had planned stop at Upshur and Monongalia counties on Friday, looking for options for Wood County's own animal control issues.
The county's $271,344 contract with the Humane Society of Parkersburg for animal control services expires June 30. Citing rising costs, humane society officials had requested a 10 percent raise in the contract, which the county denied. The humane society then notified the commission as of July 1 it will eliminate its three humane officer posts, taking it out of the animal control business. If the county still wants to contract with the humane society to house animals, the cost would be $202,746. The county is required by code to provide animal control services relating to dogs and has over the years chosen to contract with the humane society for those services.
The three commissioners visited the Point Pleasant shelter on Monday. It is a county-run facility, with a capacity of 40 dogs and 36 cats.
"They do some things a little differently; they only take animals from residents of their county. At one time they had over 400 dogs because they were accepting animals from neighboring communities," said Commissioner Blair Couch.
The shelter has three employees and costs the county about $135,000 annually to operate.
"It's a nice facility, well-run. They do a good job. I was impressed. They work diligently with animal rescue groups. They have an intake fee for dogs and cats and adoption rates. They require an adopted pet be spayed or neutered within 30 days or the new owner gets a ticket from the humane officer," Couch said. "They offered their help in the interim with euthanization services if Wood County needed them."
"My key concern is being able to operate in a cost-effective manner, and the fear that if we try to open something too fast, we run the risk of a shoddy facility, and I can't support that. In creating a facility, we need to think long-term, I think that's the approach we have to take," Couch said. "We have to explore all the options, do our due diligence."
Wood County commission President Wayne Dunn said when visiting the sites he will be looking at cost-effectiveness of the operations.
"I want to see their facilities and how much they cost. Personally I think we still need to be talking with our humane society, but we need to do this first. If this is better for us, we can go this route, but I suspect we had the best deal to begin with, and now we're just going to lose ground," Dunn said.
Both Dunn and Commissioner Steve Gainer said Monday they will not be able to visit the shelters in Monongalia and Upshur counties on Friday as previously planned. Dunn said he would visit the facilities on his own. Couch had still planned to go to the facilities Friday.
"After we see these four places, we just have to sit down and look at the costs and the administration of a new program and the hassles that are going to be there. As it is now, the humane society does a great job, and they were willing to accept the hassles. We'll have to look at all the costs, insurance, liability, I suspect there are a lot of hidden costs," Dunn said.
The goal, according to the commission president is "even if it's a temporary solution, to do something before the contract with the humane society expires on June 30."