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Woolwich comes to animal shelter agreement with Humane Society

Working under a 48-year-old agreement isn’t working anymore for the K-W Humane Society, which wants more money from Woolwich Township. Meeting this week, councillors reluctantly agreed to a new deal.

The organization provides sheltering services to the 150-170 dogs and cats from Woolwich dealt with each year at its Kitchener facility. Some are strays collected by bylaw enforcement officers, while most are found or unwanted animals dropped off by residents.

Under the previous agreement, signed in 1966, Woolwich has been paying about $4,000 annually in the past five years, sums the Humane Society says don’t come close to covering the cost of providing the service. The new five-year contract would jump the rate to $15,000 for 2014, with cost-of-living increases annually.

The new deal provides a flat fee for sheltering up to 250 animals per year. If that number is exceeded, the township will pay an additional $150 per animal, according to a report presented March 4 by bylaw enforcement officer Tony Wood.

Mayor Todd Cowan, who voted against the deal, balked at the cost increase, arguing the township shouldn’t have to pay all at once for the Humane Society having been “asleep at the switch” in terms of increases over the years.

He also decried the “negotiation tactic” of presenting the township with a bill for $30,000 for 2013 – what the services provided would cost at the non-contract rate – then agreeing to drop it down to $6,000 if a new agreement is signed.

“I feel like we’ve got a gun to our head,” said Cowan, calling for the township to look at other options.

He pointed to the formerly Elmira-based Pet Patrol, now in Wellesley Township, as an organization that works without financial support from municipalities. (Pet Patrol focuses on cat rescue.)

His position wasn’t supported by other councillors, though Coun. Bonnie Bryant suggested the township look at other options, including handling dogs and cats separately, before voting against the deal.

Wood noted there are numerous animal-rescue groups in the area, suggesting council approve the agreement with the KWHS and look at using the new contract’s 90-day cancellation clause should a better deal arise.

In a presentation to council, KWHS executive director Jack Kinch said there are other options available to Woolwich. He noted the township, which is mandated by the province to provide shelter services, though not necessarily through the Humane Society, which operates under provincial regulations that it, too, must accept animals and care for them.

The Humane Society receives no government funding, relying on program and adoption revenues for 39 per cent of its budget, and community support for 61 per cent, he explained.

The new agreement would come closer to a cost-recovery model for providing services to the township, he added.

Last year, 170 cats and 46 dogs from Woolwich passed through KWHS. While the organization does attempt to recoup some of the costs when people come to pick up their pets – receiving an average of $25 to $50 from owners – most of the animals go unclaimed: about 40 per cent of dogs are returned to their owners, while only one per cent of cats fall into that category.

Unwanted cats, Kinch said, place the biggest stress on the system. The problem often lies with bad pet owners, who often fail to spay or neuter their animals.

“That is the solution to the problem with the cats,” he said of efforts to reduce overpopulation.

With councillors Julie-Anne Herteis, who found the cost “not outrageous,” and Allan Poffenroth on side, the tied vote was broken by Coun. Mark Bauman, who chaired Tuesday night’s meeting. Approval for the staff report means the township will move forward with the agreement. The $15,000 cost has already been accounted for in the 2014 budget, also approved this week.

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