The shaggy dog story of the Humane Society of Central Arizona’s contract to handle stray animals in Payson took another interesting turn last week, with council approval of a temporary agreement.
The Payson council voted unanimously to pay the animal shelter $7,400 per month until everyone figures out what the town really ought to pay — could be less, could be more.
The temporary agreement was backdated to the July 1 start of the fiscal year and will run until Jan. 1 — unless someone figures out the real numbers first.
The $7,400 monthly contract represents a continuation of the amount the town paid for the last fiscal year.
The shaggy saga of the Humane Society contract goes back to a suggestion by Payson Police Chief Don Engler that the annual, $88,000 contract ought to drop to about $35,000 per year, since the town’s animal control officer only turned over to the shelter about 350 animals per year.
The Humane Society protested the cut, saying the town should pay for the handling of the roughly 1,000 animals picked up in the town limits each year.
The town-paid animal control officer brought in only about one-third of the animals the town should pay for, Humane Society officials argued.
In fact, Humane Society officials argued the town really ought to double the $88,000 to pay the direct costs of processing those 1,000 animals and holding them for the first 72 hours — which is the extent of the town’s legal responsibility.
The Humane Society did a “motion study” suggesting taking in a new animal costs $180 in staffing, medical and facility costs in that first three days.
The Payson shelter keeps many animals much longer than 72 hours, since it tries to find a home for any animal well enough and safe enough to qualify for adoption.
The two sides have been negotiating fitfully ever since, after the town’s review of the law indicated that the town was legally responsible for all the strays in the community.
In the midst of those negotiations, the town staff noted that the town hadn’t ever entered into a contract with the Humane Society to continue providing services in the current fiscal year. As a result, the town had fallen three months behind in payments to the shelter.
Councilor Michael Hughes supported the temporary contract and back pay at last year’s rates, but wanted to make sure that the town could reduce payments in the second half of the year in the event the town and the shelter negotiated a lower monthly cost.
“That’s the way I would read it,” said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans.
But that provision cuts both ways, noted Councilor Ed Blair. “If the contract turns out to be more than $7,400 a month, that would also be prorated,” he said.