SPCA funding is restored

Published 2:32 pm Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Supervisors on Monday not only voted to restore $100,000 in funding to the county library system, they also voted to restore $11,396 in funding they had cut from the SPCA-supported Picayune Animal Shelter.

While the two organizations are not the only ones that sustained cuts by supervisors this new budget year, by percentage they sustained some of the largest cuts.

Supervisors on Sept. 14 adopted a new 2009-’10 general fund county budget that contained no tax increases. During budget workshop discussions preceding adoption of the budget, at least three supervisors said they were against raising taxes.

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SPCA officials were hoping to get the same $51,396 appropriation under the new county budget as they did last year, but supervisors cut them $11,396 back to $40,000.

That put the Picayune Animal Shelter in a funding bind since in addition to sustaining the county cut, SPCA officials told supervisors that donations and a recycling business they run on the side to help support the shelter were both way down, too.

In addition, the officials pointed out that the money they receive from the county is not a donation, because the SPCA signs a contract with the county to provide a service.

Supervisor Hudson Holliday moved and Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith seconded the motion to restore funding to the library system, which passed unanimously. Then Smith moved that the animal shelter appropriation be restored, seconded by Holliday, and that, too, carried unanimously.

Technically, what supervisors probably will do with the SPCA is eventually sign a contract agreeing to the $51,396 annual fee that the SPCA will charge the county for handling the animals brought to the animal shelter from outside the city limits of Picayune.

When the county cut the SPCA, the group pulled a contract from the county that they had already signed for the same amount they received last year.

On Monday, three SPCA board members appeared before the board, Bettie Cashion, secretary-treasurer; Maria Diamond, president, and Judy Wheaton, a vice-president and also the shelter’s overall supervisor.

Cashion presented supervisors with a report that said showed that last year the shelter took in 3,806 county animals and euthanized 2,861 of them.

Wheaton’s cost analysis showed that it cost the shelter $18 per animal handled. The report said that the actual cost to the shelter to euthanize 2,861 county animals was $59,400.

Cashion said the shelter could back up its documentation.

The SPCA officials presented supervisors with several alternatives: The county could fully fund the euthanizing costs, could sign the $51,396 contract, or hold to its $40,000 offer and sign a nine-month contract at $4,444 per month. At the end of the 9-month contract the shelter would charge $20 per animal or $30 per litter to receive animals from the county.

Cashion said the shelter does not like to charge a fee per animal because it discourages residents from bringing their animals to the shelter and they wind up releasing them in the county.

If the county chose to not fund the shelter at all, shelter officials said the charge would be $20 per animal and $30 per litter.

Smith, since his involvement with an animal cruelty case back in the summer, which officials said was the worse they have seen around here, has been pushing for an animal control officer, which supervisors funded this year, raising the animal control officer from $28,000 to $68,000.

However, county officials said they still planned to use the Picayune Animal Shelter and that they had no intentions of setting up a separate animal shelter.

They said their only intention was to have a qualified animal control officer who was a law enforcement officer who properly can handle complaints and write tickets for violations of the state and local animal cruelty laws.