Commission talks animal control options

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners are planning to visit animal shelters in other counties as they study options for animal control services here.

Visits are planned in Washington County and in Upshur, Monongahela and Mason counties in West Virginia.

“We only have two months to make a decision. Contacting these other shelters we are finding out what to do and what not to do. It’s been very educational. We picked the ones we felt were the best to visit. We are trying to work out a solution, evaluating. We are going to learn more visiting the facilities, then we have to determine what direction we want to go,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

The county is required by state code to provide animal control services for dogs and over the years has chosen to contract those services out to the Humane Society of Parkersburg. The current contract with the society expires June 30. Citing rising costs, the society had asked for a 10 percent raise on its $270,000 plus contract, and the commission refused to grant the additional funds.

The county was then notified as of July 1 the society planned to eliminate three humane officer positions, thus effectively taking them out of the animal control business.

The commissioners began exploring options, and contacted a number of other counties to find out how they provided animal control services. Each commissioner took several of the counties that responded to the inquiries and contacted them for information.

“Upshur shares a facility with another county. Their payroll is about $110,000 for two full-time and one part-time employees, including benefits. They are open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays. There is a humane officer with the sheriff’s department. He works as their patrol. They do accept some dropoffs. There is a fee if the animal is unwanted, not found. They keep the animals past the required five days before euthanizing only if there is space available. Their $50 adoption fee is refunded if the new pet owner has the animal spayed or neutered and they show proof of that. They accept cats; there is a fee,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

One of the counties has a levy, part of which is used by the facility, he said.

“They work with a variety of rescue groups, but they said they don’t get a lot of unwanted dropoffs,” he said.

Couch said the Upshur County Commission spends from $75,000 to $80,000 annually. Operating costs are from $160,000 to $175,000.

Couch said Harrison County has a levy to help offset its costs.

Commissioner Steve Gainer said he checked on Roane, Marshall and Mason counties.

“Mason County has one dog warden and two assistants. Their budget is about $80,000 a year. They own their own building. The total budget for the building and everything is about $130,000. They have drop-off fee and adoption fees and they also do spaying and neutering,” Gainer said.

In Roane County, Gainer said there is a director and two part-timers, and a budget of about $60,000 for the salaries. The sheriff has a humane officer who is paid $18,500 for those services.

“Marshall County, the biggest one, was very expensive,” Gainer said.

“I also contacted Washington County in Ohio. Their county commission pays $48,000 annually and they receive $14,400 from the city of Marietta,” he said.

Dunn contacted Mercer, Putnam and Monongahela counties.

“Mercer has a humane society, (and) renovated a building for $30,000. They have a lot of turnover in employees. Their cost is $430,000 a year,” he said.

Putnam County, Dunn said, spent $2 million on a building, and the commission pays $360,000 a year.

“They own their own facility and have few problems. They are totally independent of the humane society,” Dunn said.

Monongahela County has a humane society, four dog wardens and one supervisor, (and) annually receives $37,000 from Morgantown and that goes up 3 percent each year, Dunn said. The budget is from $275,000 to $300,000 a year.

There is an $85 adoption fee for cats/dogs. The animals have their shots and are spayed or neutered, Dunn said.

“Of the three, I would recommend visiting the Monongahela County shelter,” he said.

The commissioners plan to visit the Mason County facility on April 29; Upshur and Monongahela facilities on May 3 and Washington County on May 2.

“I feel we had a good arrangement with the humane society, but now we have to look at other options,” Dunn said.