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COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER IN CRISIS, OPTIONS LIMITED

GOLD BEACH Animal lovers have one more month to come to the rescue of the Curry County Animal Shelter before the commissioners take drastic action on the shelters $17,000 deficit.

The commissioners found themselves with few options when they discussed dog control at Wednesdays work session.

If donations and dog license fees dont increase dramatically, the commissioners may be forced to cut shelter operating hours.

Shelter attendant Fred Souza could be cut to part-time, or laid-off entirely. That would keep Animal Control Supervisor Trig Garayalde in the shelter, and virtually end his patrols and animal pickups.

The commissioners will also look into making the countys dog control district into a taxing district. They may also investigate whether the state actually mandates a shelter or not.

They may even have to question how long animals are kept before they are euthanized. The state requires only five days.

None of the commissioners liked any of the options. All say they are animal lovers, but they dont know how to make up the deficit.

Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said the shortfall is not the fault of Garayalde. She said he did not write the budget for dog control, which is under the commissioners office.

She credited him with being the first supervisor to come to her and admit he wont receive all of his projected revenue for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Commissioner Lucie La Bont said, There is no extra money in the general fund. We have no savings left. The budget was gutted last year.

Schafer said dog control revenues were projected to be $74,123 for fiscal year 2000-01. At the end of January, only $29,101 had come in.

Dog license fees were projected to be $27,000, but only $11,798 had been received. The county requires licensing of all dogs, but only about 20 percent of owners have complied.

The donation situation was even worse. Based on last years totals, the shelter budgeted $18,000 to come in from generous citizens. Only $3,555 has arrived.

Schafer estimated the shelter could expect $16,450 in revenue by the end of the fiscal year. She said that estimate was probably optimistic. She also said the commissioners would give the shelter $14,998 more out of the general fund.

Total expenses amounted to $42,194 at the end of January. Schafer estimated $35,345 more would be spent by the end of the fiscal year. That would result in a deficit of $16,990 by the end of June.

La Bont wanted to take action to reduce costs as soon as possible. After some discussion, the commissioners decided to give the public another month to respond to the need.

La Bont warned the delay could make the situation worse, forcing the commissioners to take more drastic steps when they did act.

Gold Beach veterinarian Barbara Barke suggested raising fees to the point where the shelter could support itself.

Adoption fees are currently $40. Dog licenses are $8 for dogs spayed or neutered and $25 for others. Pick-up fees for impounded dogs start at $30, plus $7.50 a day for board.

Barke thought a $10 license fee would be reasonable. Schafer said fee increases would have to be huge to cover the $17,000 deficit.

Barke also said the community could look at the shelter as a boarding facility, but Garayalde said he was not comfortable with that.

He said the dogs in the shelter are often large and not calm. He couldnt guarantee the safety of any dog in the shelter.

Commissioner Cheryl Thorp said there is no way to convince every owner in the county to license their dogs. Garayalde said that is a major problem everywhere in Oregon.

Barke said her customers are responsible pet owners who dont complain about the $8 license fee. She thought a campaign to sell licenses might raise revenues by 20-25 percent.

La Bont said shed be willing to mandate licenses, but cautioned the county wont be able to send anyone out to enforce the law.

Garayalde said he already feels like a taxi service picking up abandoned animals.

Thorp wanted to remind dog owners that they can license their dogs at veterinarians, the shelter in Gold Beach, the courthouse, and by mail.

She also reminded the commissioners that Garayalde had donated many hours to the shelter painting and landscaping.

Garayalde said Souza also volunteers at the shelter during his time off.

Schafer said the shelter staff was great, but asked how they would get through to July 1.

We need the program, said Schafer. Everyone knows that, but how do we keep it running? Where to we get the money?

We three elected officials have to balance the budget, she said. Its a very emotional issue. We all care about dogs, and we have a commitment to our employees.

La Bont said shes been publicizing the problem for a month in hopes the public would respond with donations. Instead, all shes heard is, Lucie doesnt care about animals.

Its not true, she said.

Garayalde warned that it has taken time to establish the integrity of the shelter, integrity that will be compromised if employees and services are cut or eliminated.

Elaine Edwards was against using community corrections work crews in the shelter. She said they are not always supervised and sometimes are visited by friends while working.

La Bont said shed heard a work center supervisor was being paid but was temporarily off-duty. She asked if that person could help out at the shelter.

Garayalde said hed already discussed that with Sheriff Kent Owens, who is now in charge of community corrections.

He said the person is off-duty because of an indictment, and the case has not yet come to trial.

He and Owens had agreed that it would not be a good idea to place the supervisor at the shelter.

Citizen Gloria Rodgers wondered if the county would be allowed to shut the shelter down.

Schafer said theyd learned the county formed a dog control district in 1964 to follow state statutes on licensing and at-large dogs.

The commissioners dont know yet who was supposed to be in charge of that district, or if it could be turned into a taxing district.

Rodgers said in all the years she has attended county budget hearings, it is always the shelter that gets cut. Garayalde said shelters are not money-makers anywhere, they are service organizations.

La Bont said the real problem is that people in Curry County are not responsible with their animals as far as spaying, neutering and licensing.

Schafer said the shelter didnt project a realistic budget, then added personnel in the middle of the year. She said it would have a realistic budget next year.

Garayalde said Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Murphy has offered to help him prepare the budget. La Bont also hoped the proposed South Coast Humane Society shelter in Brookings would take the pressure off, at least in the south county.

Maybe our shelter could end up being a holding facility, she said.

Garayalde said the shelter also used to get fees from returning dogs to owners after those dogs had been placed in the Brookings holding pens.

He said the shelter has lost that revenue since the Brookings police decided not to transport animals in their vehicles.

La Bont said the commissioners would talk that over with Brookings city officials.

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