City, humane society debate could be game of chicken

Justin Crann
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Both parties say they will talk — with concessions

Matt Noble, Moose Jaw's city manager, said the city will return to the bargaining table if the MJHS agrees to extend its contract and provide administration with the numbers it needs to report to council and the public.

Dave Field has a message for Moose Javians.

"I'm disappointed with some of the stuff that's being said on the street, on both sides of the equation," said Field, finance chair for the Moose Jaw Humane Society (MJHS).

Field is not the first individual involved in the escalating conflict between the city and the humane society to express concern over comments that have been made.

Matt Noble, Moose Jaw's city manager, has also criticized what he called "bald faced lies" that have been "creating controversy in the community."

From his perspective, the city manager suggested, employees of the MJHS have been feeding the flames by "operating a very subversive campaign" about the city's plans and their own operation.

In spite of all that has been said, both parties have indicated they would consider coming back to the table.

Whether they ultimately will could just be a matter of who flinches first.


Field discussed the MJHS's decision to terminate its contract with the Times-Herald Thursday.

"In our meeting with council on Dec. 17, 2012, they said they would work to get (a deal) resolved as soon as they could — probably by March (2013). We agreed to extend the contract for another year, as long as we kept talking," he said. "As of August … we talked, but the city had not countered our proposal."

Honouring the old contract at a loss wasn't something the MJHS was willing to continue, Field and John LaBuick, the president of the organization's board, told the Times-Herald in September.

At least part of the problem, LaBuick said, was that the city had negotiated in bad faith and "hanged" the humane society with an offer it couldn't afford to reject due to financial constraints.

"The city took advantage of the humane society on this last contract," he said. "They literally wrote their own cheque. They decided what they wanted to pay, and they did what they wanted."

That contract was signed more than seven months after it should have been, on Aug. 15, 2007. It also contradicted itself, saying it would hold for a period of five years while outlining a period of six.

When the contract was entering its final year, LaBuick and Field attempted to spark negotiations with an initial offer of $386,053, which would have been an almost threefold increase over the existing deal.

It was the amount required for the humane society to operate without profit, LaBuick said.

Field said the MJHS waited until August, 2013 and, when a counter-offer still had not been made, served the city with notice it intended to terminate the contract.

The city did not make a counter-offer until October, after Noble took on the position of city manager, Field confirmed. 

The offer was valued at $200,000 and included $83,000 for medical costs in lieu of euthanization. 

Noble said it was what administration "would be willing to support."

Following consultation with the MJHS board, Field responded with a second proposal, requesting $329,000 with five per cent increases per year. That offer was intended to be another step in the negotiation process.

"We reduced what we were asking for, but it was still higher than their counter-offer," he said. "Nowhere in the letter did we say, 'Drop dead, that's our final offer.' … We said, 'Call us.'"

Put somebody on the other side of the table that we can sit down with for two hours and negotiate back and forth with Dave Field, MJHS finance chair

The city did not respond because Noble saw the offer in a different light.

"They sent a letter back that said, 'We want $329,000. End of story,'" he told the Times-Herald on Tuesday.

According to Noble, the MJHS' valuation of certain services was not reasonable.

Among those items were a request for 5,400 days of kennelling at a rate of $22 per night, 1,080 animal pick-ups at a cost of $100 per pick-up, and $20,000 for equipment replacement.

Noble said the numbers were not justifiable, even by the MJHS' own estimations.

According to documents he presented to the Times-Herald, the MJHS handles only 959 animals — cats and dogs — that are the city's responsibility per year. 

Surrenders are not considered the city's responsibility.

For Noble to bargain, he said he needed a full explanation of the figures.

"They need to give us statistical information that previously they haven't given us, but that we used to get," he said. "In old reports (from the previous contract negotiations) they impounded 89 (dogs). Now, they're saying they are responsible for 514. We should see the progression."





Organizations: Moose Jaw Humane Society, The Times-Herald, MJHS board

Geographic location: Moose Jaw

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Recent comments

  • That Guy
    December 20, 2013 - 10:14

    Matt Noble has said that the City will not automatically euthanize animals after 5 days, that, instead, the City will work with other agencies to find care for the animals. Mr. Noble has also said that anyone who takes the animals after 5 days will not be paid for those services. My questions is: If nobody will take the animals because they are not being paid for their care, then what will the City do with the animals? I think we all know the answer but I'd like to see Mr. Noble address that question.