Humane Society terminates pound keeping contract

Justin Crann
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Battle over numbers ends bitterly

Matt Noble believes the Moose Jaw Humane Society (MJHS) is using animals as collateral.

Dana Haukaas, the Moose Jaw Humane Society's executive assistant, holds Magnum. Magnum has stayed at the humane society's shelter for the past four weeks.

"They know they have the media and public sentiment on their side, so they're willing to use the animals as pawns and bash the city to get money," said Noble, Moose Jaw's city manager. 

"That's my personal feeling."

Noble first took on his role in the middle of a stand-off between the MJHS and the City of Moose Jaw over the former's pound-keeping service contract. 

The contract expired at the end of 2012, but the humane society had continued to deliver pound-keeping services with city funding on a month-by-month basis.

The MJHS' board gave formal notice to the city in August that it would no longer deliver those services after Dec. 31 unless a better deal could be struck, said Dave Field, the organization's finance chair.

For the MJHS, an "amicable agreement" would have involved an almost threefold increase in the amount the city paid for the service, to the tune of $386,053 per year.

But the city manager did not find those terms acceptable.

"It didn't make sense," Noble said. "They sent us a letter saying, 'We want 5,400 days of kennelling at market rates, we want 1,080 pick-ups at $100 per pick-up, we want medical in lieu of $83,000, and equipment replacement costs of $20,000.'

"The fact is, none of those lines are justifiable," added Noble. "And there's no back-up or provision for anything."

In response, city administration ran their own numbers and suggested a contract worth approximately $200,000.

That suggestion — administration is not authorized to make offers, Noble said — was understood to be a "final offer," according to Field.

"The city's final offer was right around $200,000, bearing in mind that $83,000 of that was in lieu for medical expenditures on the dogs," said Field.

"For us, that (medical in lieu) is an in-and-out. There's no benefit to that, other than we don't have to suck those costs up ourselves."

Field said the humane society sent back another counter-offer "in a very timely fashion," to which the city didn't respond whatsoever.

"They sent a letter back that said, 'We want $329,000. End of story,'" said Noble. "And for subsequent years, they want a five per cent increase (year-over-year)."

With the annual increase, the contract would eclipse the MJHS' initial offer in its fourth year.

Noble took further issue with the way the contract was broken down.

"Their biggest expenses are their salaries and wages at $281,000 and fundraising expenses at $57,000. Those are the two biggest line items," he said.

"I wish it was nicer but the fact is, while I know this is an emotional issue for the community at a very unfortunate time of year … none of this needed to happen if it wasn't just about money."

With the termination of the contract imminent, the city will instead hire its own dog catcher and go into the pound-keeping business with the aid of private kennels.

The private interests that would be involved could not be named because "all of the ink is not dry" on the contracts, he added.

When the city does assume the service, it will stick by the required five-day holding time in Moose Jaw bylaws, Noble said.

I wish it was nicer but the fact is, while I know this is an emotional issue for the community at a very unfortunate time of year … none of this needed to happen if it wasn't just about money. Matt Noble, city manager

He added that the city would contact the Moose Jaw Humane Society and "other rescue agencies" who might be interested in taking the animals when they are reaching their maximum, five-day stay.

Animals will not be held beyond five days and — provided they aren't rescued — will be euthanized in accordance with the bylaw.

According to the humane society's own estimation, an animal typically remains with the shelter for more than 25 days before it is adopted.

For his part, Field said he was "extremely disappointed" with the city's decision to return to a "capture and kill" model.

"They're just going to go out and capture the animal and take it to a holding area somewhere, and after five days, they're going to take that animal and dispose of it," he said. "There has been no mention of trying to reunite the animal with its owner or anything. It's just pick them up and five days later, they're done.

"I just hope my pet doesn't get loose," said Field.

You can follow Justin Crann on Twitter or like him on Facebook.

Please note: the headline of this story has been changed to accurately depict the ongoing situation between the Moose Jaw Humane Society and the City of Moose Jaw. It was previously, "Moose Jaw terminates humane society contract," but the MJHS is the terminating party. The Times-Herald apologizes for the error.

Organizations: Moose Jaw Humane Society

Geographic location: Moose Jaw

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Recent comments

  • Gloria Heisler
    December 18, 2013 - 12:06

    Capture and kill policy - you have go to be kidding!!!!!!!! Doesn't anyone care about animals anymore?????????

  • Michelle
    December 18, 2013 - 10:27

    Will someone from the City be available after normal business hours to deal with problem animals or animals that are left out in the cold? Perhaps the City isn't considering overtime or 'on-call' costs.

  • Rod Chelle
    December 18, 2013 - 10:14

    I think both parties are at fault and the animals will pay the price. I don't think the city will be able to supply the service at a reasonable cost. If they only have one person hired at say $40,000 /yr. they will have to pay overtime and benefits and will get 8 hours per day 5 days a week. They will find they need 2 or 3 people and the costs go up. City services in Moose Jaw are not noted to be great for the amount we spend in taxes. I think the Humane Society could and should sign the contract and now that citizens know the situation maybe there will be more volunteers and donations. I don't know how efficiently the organization is managed so I can't comment. In a nut shell, everybody give your head a shake and come to an agreement.

    • susan
      December 18, 2013 - 13:24

      I most certainly agree with you Rod. I have been led to believe that the MJ humane society needs more to operate this service but triple the amount?? They need to get back together with someone in the middle to keep the focus on the animals in this city.

  • Tom T
    December 18, 2013 - 09:02

    Here we go with another government privatization scheme that will inevitably cost the taxpayers more money...just give it a year and see what happens!

  • Steve
    December 18, 2013 - 08:41

    Good move by the city as the Human Society is not doing a proper job! We have rampant wild cats in our area and they show absolutely no interest in helping out our neighbourhood in this regard!

  • Janet Chubb
    December 18, 2013 - 04:18

    My husband and I did how own number crunching, and what the MJHS wants is average. I feel real sorry for the dogs, and cats of Moose Jaw. City Hall should be ashamed of them selves.

  • Alicia
    December 18, 2013 - 01:07

    Are you serious? Why go back to the "capture and kill" format. How would you feel if you lost your animal or child (because many people treat them as children or family) and it happened to spend the 5 days in the pen and then euthenized. Unethical, inhumane, down right unacceptable. Who thinks this is a good idea? If it wasn't for irresponsible/ignorant HUMANS we wouldn't have a unreasonable issue here. Where's the petition? Because there definitely needs to be one.

  • Shelysha Sheepwash
    December 17, 2013 - 22:04

    This makes me sick, why cancelle something that benefits everyone. Personal come to an arrangement that works for everyone. What's so hard about that