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City, county should contribute funding for new animal shelter

Staff Report • Sep 17, 2012 at 8:50 AM

The Johnson City/Washington County Animal Control Board is looking for a fresh start in raising funds to construct a new animal shelter. The board has been charged with raising $1.2 million to get the job done.

It’s a tall order, but not impossible. We wonder, however, if it is fair to ask the Animal Control Board to take on this challenge alone. It would seem local governments have a responsibility to contribute to this essential public service.

The current animal shelter at 525 Sells Ave. is in desperate need of replacement. The animal shelter takes in many more dogs and cats than the facility was ever designed to hold. Animal control officials have been asking for a new facility for more than a decade.

Earlier this year, the City Commission and Washington County Commission agreed to purchase 6.6 acres to build a new shelter at 3411 N. Roan St. Both governments, however, have asked the Animal Control Board to come up with the funds needed to get the project done.

It does seem a bit curious that animal control would not be treated the same as any other government service.

As Terry Paduch, a former member of the Animal Control Board and a volunteer at the shelter, noted in a recent letter to Forum, construction of a new shelter shouldn’t be dependent on how many hot dogs and doughnuts board members can sell.

“Fire stations, football stadiums, basketball arenas and community centers were funded using general fund dollars — not private donations,” Paduch wrote.

She’s right. The fact that local government leaders treat animal control as if it were some feel-good charity and not an essential public safety service is quite troubling. It’s OK to ask animal lovers to help with the construction of the new shelter, but the cost of the entire project should not be placed on the backs of private donors.

Plans call for a spay and neuter clinic to be housed in the new shelter. That’s an extremely important component that will also be financed by private donations.

Officials say more than 4 million unwanted, abused or aggressive dogs and cats were euthanized last year in the United States. These deaths would have been unnecessary had pet owners spayed or neutered their animals.

If they had, many puppies and kittens would not end up in the animal shelter, which continually struggles to stretch the limited tax dollars it receives from the city and county.

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