We are crushed by the decision of the county to opt out of a humane society partnership that has paid dividends for Clermont County residents and animals and brought elite, nationally-recognized no-kill animal sheltering to the county.
What Exactly Happened?
Clermont animal services have been underfunded for decades. When Clermont Animal CARE signed a contract for $310,000 to begin services in January 2018, we assumed the money provided by the contract and offered by the county as the “estimated budget for services” covered the services required in the contract. We were wrong.
After 3 years of running the animal shelter at its highest level in county history and maintaining a 98% no-kill status, we uncovered that the county budget was woefully low. The money from the county was not even covering basic services and our humane society funds were being pulled every month to fill the gap. This shortfall left our humane society budget in the negative every month – financials that were reported to the county every quarter. We brought this to the attention of the county in the summer of 2019 and after several months of disagreements, we were given a small increase but were then asked to pay for building expenses that we, nor the previous operators, were not required to pay previously. Expenses that are outlined in the Ohio Revised Code as the responsibility of the county.
To run the Clermont County shelter at a 98% no kill level, it takes a budget of approximately $1.3 million to attract and keep exceptional staff and Animal Control officers, pay for lifesaving medical procedures, and provide community support. It costs money to save animals and the $848,000 we asked the county for is to cover the cost of the basic dog warden services they are obligated to provide per Ohio Revised Code 955, (at an average salary of $16/hr for our staff). Everything else? We’ll cover that with our humane society operational funds, donations and grant funding.
What is No Kill?
Clermont County, as is their right per local ordinances and state law, is under no obligation to fund anything other than stray dog services. Services for owner-surrendered animals, keeping dogs alive past the 3 or 14-day stray hold, and any services for cats, are not required. That didn’t stop Clermont Animal CARE from providing those services – and WE’RE NOT ASKING THE COUNTY TO PAY FOR THAT. We will continue to do so, provided that they pay, for the first time ever, a fair budget for the services they are contracting for. We will help Clermont maintain the lifesaving we’ve achieved over the past 3 years and hold true to our calling of saving every savable animal.
If the county itself will be taking over the shelter on January 1st, with county employees assigned the task of carrying out basic county ordinances and obligations, what happens to pets whose owners can no longer keep them? What happens to stray dogs on Day 4? Will the county simply not take them in? Will stray dogs be given a chance at a live outcome after 4 days? What happens to cats? Will the citizens of Clermont just have to deal with seeing sick, injured, inbred cats with no options for helping them? Will the people of Clermont carry the burden of trying to find funding for vet care, transporting to spay and neuter clinics for TNR, or hope to get lucky that just one of the rescues or private shelters they call has the space available to say yes? We cannot imagine looking at the very people who elected you into your position and saying “too bad, we aren’t required to do anything to help you.”
Our hearts ache for a community of animals and people who now face an uncertain future.
What Happens Next?
The county’s proposed staffing model and budget leave us highly concerned about their commitment to no-kill animal services. Simply put, they do not have the staff, expertise, industry network or money to keep Clermont’s no-kill levels where they are. Levels that they purport to be committed to – but if you’ll notice, they never mention cats in their reference to “no kill sheltering”. And it is alarming to us that in their very first move of taking over operations, we were informed in an email from County Administrator Tom Eigel dated 12/8/20 that the county will only take responsibility for dogs in the 3 or 14 day hold periods as of December 31, 2020. All dogs and other animals are the responsibility of the Society. So what they are saying is that any dog in the shelter prior to December 29th, any animal that was surrendered, and all cats currently in our care do not have a place in the county shelter beginning January 1st. That’s not the way No-Kill works.
Stay strong, Clermont County. Together, we have shown what can be done to save lives in our community. Clermont Animal CARE is still fully committed to continuing our work as the county animal services provider, but it’s time to say “no more” to underfunded budgets, undervalued services and taking advantage of the goodwill of the humane society and those in the community that care about animals.
It’s hard to get anyone to agree about anything in today’s political climate, but animals unite people across all backgrounds and party lines. The lives of these animals hang in the balance. If this is important to you, we encourage you to respectfully share your thoughts with your elected officials and ask them if they can spare 0.014% of their $85M surplus to fund elite lifesaving animal services with fair wages for the staff on the front lines.
Our vision is to reunite lost companion pets, reduce the stray population, offer opportunities for unwanted animals to be adopted or rescued and provide the public with information and programs for responsible pet ownership in Clermont County Ohio.