Payson Pays $137 Per Stray In Animal Shelter

Report sheds light on contract between town and Humane Society

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Payson paid $137 for each dog and cat impounded by the Central Arizona Humane Society last year, Payson Police Chief Don Engler reported to the town council last week.

The council approved Engler’s report without comment, although the town’s $7,400 monthly contract with the Humane Society has sometimes spurred controversy.

Engler said that the Humane Society impounded in the town limits 170 dogs and 100 cats between July 1, 2011 and November 30, 2011.

Out of those 270 animals, the town’s animal control officer accounted for 102 of the animals turned over to the animal shelter on Main Street.

“Therefore,” concluded Engler’s memo, “one could surmise that out of the 270 total impoundments, 168 of those were provided by citizens of the community.”

The $88,000 annual contract with the Humane Society has repeatedly spurred debate in the several years since Engler proposed slashing it by about two-thirds, on the grounds that the town should only be responsible for animals its own animal control officer captures and turns over to the shelter.

Humane Society officials protested that the town had legal responsibility for all the stray animals in the town limits, including those turned over to the shelter by private citizens.

After reviewing state statutes, which make towns responsible for stray animals if they pass an animal control ordinance, the town tacitly accepted legal responsibility for the animals turned in by citizens as well.

That didn’t entirely smother the dispute, since the Humane Society has repeatedly cited a “time and motion” study it conducted on the steps it must take in the first 72 hours it impounds an animal, the period for which state law makes towns and counties responsible for the animal.

That study suggested that the Humane Society spends $157 for each dog and $129 for each cat in the first 72 hours.

The Payson shelter tries to minimize the number of abandoned dogs and cats it kills, by using its own funds to keep potentially adoptable animals for months if necessary. However, the shelter does euthanize animals with temperaments or medical conditions that make it unlikely they’ll be adopted. Humane Society officials say they have to euthanize about a quarter of the animals they receive, at an additional cost of $30 per animal.

Back in July, the Humane Society cited that study of its costs and its estimates of the number of animals it handles to ask for a 25 percent increase in its contract.

At that time, Engler estimated that the town was responsible for 800 animals annually, while Humane Society Director Sarah Hock put the number at 1,100.

Engler’s carefully neutral report offered comfort for both sides of that debate.

The five-month tally of 270 comes much closer to supporting Engler’s 800 animals a year estimate than Hock’s 1,100 animals.

On the other hand, Engler’s $137 per animal cost remains a bit below the Humane Society’s calculation of its per-animal costs in the first 72 hours.

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