Payson Renews Its Contract With Humane Society

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After a year of head scratching, Payson still can’t figure out how much it ought to pay the Humane Society of Central Arizona to take care of the town’s stray dogs and cats.

So the Payson Town Council last week decided to just keep on paying $7,500 a month while both sides continue to get their ducks, er dogs, in order.

The month-to-month contract puts off indefinitely a final resolution of Payson’s attempt a year ago to cut its annual contract from about $97,000 to about $35,000.

The Humane Society protested the proposed cutback and countered that the town really ought to be paying closer to $300,000 annually.

“This will give us time to work out the numbers,” said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans of the month-to-month contract. “We’ll have to find that number between the $300,000 they thought they needed and the $50,000 we thought we needed to pay.”

Evans said the negotiations have remained friendly.

“Have we got a deal? No. Have we made progress? Yes. At some point the question reaches beyond what the statute requires and gets down to what we need to be doing.”

The town’s contract with the Humane Society shelter became controversial last year when Police Chief Don Engler proposed a drastic cut in the contract on the grounds that the town should only pay for dogs turned over to the shelter by the town-employed animal control officer.

The Humane Society countered that the town ought to pay the costs for processing any dog or cat from Payson brought to the shelter, since fewer than half of the animals turned over come through the town’s animal control officer.

Moreover, the Humane Society said that a study of the actual staff and facilities costs show that the town should pay a much higher rate for each dog and cat than it does now. If the town accepted the Humane Society’s estimates, it would triple the cost of its contract.

The impasse set off a long series of talks and compromises and triggered sometimes fierce lobbying on the part of animal advocates.

The council quickly backed off the big cut and then approved a temporary extension of the status quo last year.

As last Thursday’s unanimous council vote revealed, that status quo compromise will continue for the indefinite future.

The town has now largely conceded that once it enacted an animal control ordinance, it assumed responsibility for all the stray dogs in town — even if someone besides the animal control officer brings them to the shelter. However, the state law apparently does not make the town responsible for stray cats — unless they’re a health menace, said Evans.

The town has also not accepted the Humane Society’s study on the cost of taking care of a single dog. The state law makes the town responsible for housing the dog for 72 hours, but not beyond. The Payson shelter often keeps animals for weeks or months, if they are deemed adoptable. The shelter generally only euthanizes dogs with serious behavior problems — like biting — or serious health problems.

The Humane Society wants the town to pay the costs of processing and sheltering cats and dogs picked up in Payson for the first 72 hours, but uses private donations to cover the costs of animals kept beyond the statutory limit.

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