Battle over numbers ends bitterly
Matt Noble believes the Moose Jaw Humane Society (MJHS) is using animals as collateral.
© Justin Crann
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.
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"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.
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.