GOLD BEACH Dogs may be the first casualty of the gloomy financial forecast received by the Curry County Commissioners last week.
Commissioner Rachelle Schaaf broke the bad news to the countys Animal Control Advisory Committee Friday that the Curry County Animal Shelter wont be receiving any money from the general fund next fiscal year.
Schaaf asked the 13 citizens and agency representatives present to not only find a way to keep the Animal Control program running without county support, but to actually improve it.
Those attending were also surprised to learn that the commissioners had sunsetted the old Animal Control Advisory Committee and were now accepting applications for a new seven-person committee.
They also questioned the countys estimate that Animal Control would need $46,149 from the general fund in fiscal year 2002-03.
They said that estimate was made before license fees were raised July 1. Several people thought the quarterly report due in October might show that the shelter was close to being self-supporting.
Schaaf asked if the advisory committee could find another way to fund the shelter, or as an independent entity, take it on.
We wont have the money to keep it running as we know it, she said of the animal control program. We dont have the money to continue with this.
Gold Beach veterinarian Barbara Barke said the program is not funding itself because it is too limited. It isnt involved with cats or animal abuse cases.
She said Animal Control Supervisor Trig Garayalde is currently the only person trained to investigate animal abuse cases, but has little time to do so.
She said officers responding to a complaint of animal abuse at the fairgrounds found no problem, but didnt recognize the horse in question was lame.
Barke asked who would be trained to deal with such cases if the county program was ended. She said Garayalde often takes dogs from the cities to the shelter after hours.
You need to take the leash laws, running at large, the whole gamut into consideration, she said.
Schaaf said, Right now, when people call, Brookings doesnt respond, the Curry County Sheriffs Office says call Animal Control, but Trig could be in Agness for the day. The shelter attendant then calls me.
For the next fiscal year, she said, we need to find ways to maximize service at minimal cost. We are looking for ways to make it a viable program. We cant have a program that doesnt meet community needs.
The prospects for the county budget are pretty grim, pretty bleak, she said. It will be a challenge to spend $46,149 for animal control.
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One officer cant meet the need. He is struggling to respond. I dont know that the county is doing a very good job.
Were looking for a way the community can get together and provide better service with partners.
Jan Henault, from the South Coast Humane Society, said it will assist in finding homes for animals, but cannot help with animal control.
If the county is so strapped for money, this discussion is moot, said Diane Pace, a member of the ad hoc Paws and Claws committee.
If it is state-mandated, we need to ask the state for funds, she said.
While state and county laws address dogs running at large and require rabies shots, they dont require the county to operate a shelter.
Pace said the committee put a budget together last year to make the Animal Control program self-supporting.
Barke said with the fees adjusted in July, the program should have been able to generate what it needed to run.
William Swartz, another Paws and Claws member, said the projected figure for 2002-03 should have showed $13,603 needed from the general fund, not $46,149.
He said the committee reviewed license sales volume from Garayaldes computer and multiplied it by the new fees to arrive at the income.
He said the committee met with Commissioner Marlyn Schafer to make sure its projected budget matched with the countys document.
Swartz said where the county budget shows $24,600 in revenue from licenses, that should be about $40,000 with the fee increases.
The bottom line from the coming year is nowhere near this dire, he said, but it sounds like a done deal. Youre closing the program. I take personal offense to that.
Barke said the situation is moot if the commissioners wont give any support from the general fund.
She said if the shelter is to become its own entity, the challenge is to find out what Garayalde needs and how to fund it.
Pace said to do that, the committee needs a time and mileage breakdown from Garayalde. She said if he spends half his time in Brookings, the city should support the shelter.
Gold Beach Police Chief Bob Rector asked Garayalde what the dog license fees are now.
Garayalde said license fees are $13 for altered dogs and $35 for unaltered. Adoption fees are now $50. He thought license fees were about maxed out.
Barke said revenues from license fees are not maxed-out because only half the dogs in the county are licensed. She said licenses are available at county offices and from most veterinarians.
She said vets routinely tell people to license their dogs when they are altered. Garayalde said Town and County Animal Clinic in Harbor sells $600 in licenses a month, while Brookings-Harbor Veterinary Hospital sells $300.
He also credited Barke with doing a good job on selling licenses. She said her customers either buy licenses or tell her they live out in the country and dont think they need them.
Barke asked the county to provide vets signs with teeth about county law and requirements.
She said licenses are connected with rabies shots, which only licensed veterinarians can give.
Barke said the state can fine people $1,000 for not getting rabies shots for their dogs, but the law is never enforced.
Rector said his officers have not enforced that law, but have issued citations for biting and other animal control problems.
Garayalde said he is happy to adopt out dogs at the $50 fee. He was afraid if a license fee was added to that, people would stop adopting.
Henault said the philosophy of the Humane Society is: If you cant afford the license and adoption fee, you cant afford that dog.
She said it is not good to adopt dogs out to people who cant afford to take care of them, though she said she admired Garayalde for trying to keep his euthanasia rate down. Garayalde said that rate now stands at 25-30 percent.
Sharon Burgess said if the community wants animal control, it will have to pay the fees.
She said there are several separate issues: what is needed currently, what is the wish-list for the future and what the community wants.
Suggestions to raise public awareness of the shelters plight included putting out a monthly newsletter and advertising dogs for adoption on the radio.
Several members of the committee said they value the shelter more than anything else the county could spend its money on. Schaaf said she appreciated learning the countys numbers may not be correct, but said that was the budget it adopted after union negotiations were completed.
Im an animal lover, said Schaaf, but also a steward of the countys funds. We could really use some help to provide improved services.
Henault said Humane Society volunteers may be able to help Garayalde transport animals to the shelter if the county would accept the liability.
Schaaf said she would talk with the county counsel about that.
It gives me hope to know people are out there to help, she said. Im encouraged.
The commissioners will select seven members of the new advisory committee, but Paws and Claws, open to everyone, may continue to meet too.