Danville council gets look at animal control plan

Danville council gets look at animal control plan

DANVILLE — Aldermen will get their first look Tueaday (tonight, Sept. 4) at a proposal that would end the city's animal control contract with the Danville Humane Society and establish an independent animal shelter that serves both the city and Vermilion County.

The recommendation, which was requested by Danville aldermen, would mean a much more significant monetary commitment by the city to carry out animal control and shelter animals. And although this request originated with the Danville City Council, the recommendation that's being presented tonight would also require a significant commitment from the county and also mean major changes in its current animal control and shelter arrangement.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer will make the presentation at tonight's city council meeting, summarizing the recommendation of the animal regulation committee. And Vermilion County Board Member Steve Fourez, R-District 3, plans to do the same at the county board's next health and education committee meeting on Sept. 20.

The city meets at 6 p.m. today at the municipal building, 17 W. Main St., Danville.

The animal regulation committee wants the city to end its animal control contract with the Humane Society and hire its own animal control officers, build a new addition onto the county's animal control shelter on Catlin-Tilton Road and create a third-party charitable organization with its own operating board that would run the shelter for the county and the city.

The proposal would cost the city about $250,000 a year compared with the $73,000 a year it pays the Humane Society, which provides the animal control officer who enforce the city's regulations and also provides and operates the shelter, which handles all adoptions, too. It would also require a bond issue to fund the addition to the county's animal shelter. It would also require the county to contribute about $180,000 a year toward the operating costs of the merged animal shelter and turn over the animal shelter buildings and property to the third-party charitable organization that would take over its operation. The county currently pulls about $150,000 a year out of its general fund to subsidize its animal control and shelter operation.

The animal regulation committee was formed earlier this summer at the request of Danville aldermen after members of the public and some aldermen made complaints about the quality of animal care at the Humane Society's shelter.

Eisenhauer put together the committee, that included a county representative, an alderman, a veterinarian and private citizens, and aldermen asked that the committee make a recommendation to the city council in late August.

Fourez was the only county representative on the committee. He said he thinks the proposal is probable and could gain support among the county board. He said the plan does get away from the duplication of services that currently exists between the county and city. Fourez said he has not run through all the "what-ifs" concerning the county turning over the shelter property to a third party. But, he said he believes something could be worked out and while it's not a "Cadillac" facility, it's purpose-built and could easily be expanded to meet the needs of a merged operation.

Although that and other details would need to be worked out if this proposal is pursued, Fourez said, at this point, it's the favorable thing, especially when the county needs to be refocusing on only the most vital county services because of the strained state-funding situation. "It's something that needs to be done if all the i's can be dotted and t's crossed to please everyone," he said.

Fourez said he's turned over to Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon a rough-draft summary of the committee's recommendation.

McMahon said he's not yet sat down face-to-face with Fourez to discuss the recommendation and the parts that would affect the county, but he has an open mind and is eager to merge anything that would save taxpayers money.

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Hard Reality wrote on September 05, 2012 at 11:09 am

The fact that no one has commented here or on the past several months' related articles pretty much sums up the biggest obstacle to animal welfare:  public apathy towards an increasingly uncontrollable problem.

It's been over five years since the last big uproar about Vermilion County's inadequate official animal sheltering (alleged improper care and euthanasia), yet nothing has really changed. This current move to combine the Danville Humane Society and Vermilion County Animal Shelter seems thus far more about money and political posturing than animal welfare; I doubt it will even draw attention to serious local pet overpopulation and abandonment/abuse issues, let alone solve them. However, I suppose it is a first necessary step for change.

Both those tax-supported animal repositories have long been overburdened, with histories of very high kill-rates (almost TWO THOUSAND last year in the county alone), and despite attempted improvements and best intentions, remain unable to save or prevent the countless cats and dogs neglected or disposed of every year by an unconcerned public. Not enough is being done to prioritize, educate, promote or enforce animal-care -- by either government agencies or even most of us who consider ourselves animal lovers.

But government throwing more money (it doesn't have) and bigger new buildings (what, no empty ones in Danville?) at unwanted animals does NOT "fix" them or the underlying problem of irresponsible pet-owners; only a more alert, caring and active citizenry does.

So why then hasn't Tilton's CARA (Citizens for Animal Rescue and Adoption), the private no-kill shelter operating WITH NO TAX MONEY by a handful of unpaid overworked souls in a converted donated church, even ever been mentioned in this situation? Their tremendous efforts and success rate in saving/altering/re-homing endless discarded pets at minimal cost are truly laudable and enviable -- should not CARA's dedication, expertise and successful model of operation be consulted, if not copied?

The need is great for everyone's awareness, action and support to prevent shameful animal handling. I truly hope this is a sincere push for more efficient, responsible and humane animal treatment, and not merely political or practical expediency resulting in more unheeded regulations, fees, and a bigger faster killing machine.