According to Cherokee Village Alderman Peter Martin, the shelter started out as a $20,000 a year project and is now up to $70,000 per year.
The Cherokee Village City Council held a special working meeting March 11 so the citizens' voices could be heard on the subject. Chief of Police Jason French presented the council and the public with some comparisons and facts pertaining to the shelter.
With the help of Animal Control Officer Shorlynn Morris and Shelter Secretary Helga Lange, French was able to give the council a comparison of how other area shelters run. He compared each shelter's budget, maximum animal capacity, animal hold times and salaries among some other items.
French then presented two scenarios that are possible for the shelter. Each scenario gave a set of guidelines that the shelter would follow as well as the costs each would require.
Now, the shelter holds an animal for five days for the owner to reclaim it. If the animal is not reclaimed in five days the shelter will hold the animal until it is adopted or until there is no longer room for it.
From the time Morris took the position of animal control officer, in April 2008, through the end of the year, the shelter took in 587 animals. Of those 587 animals 37 were reclaimed by their owner, 36 were euthanized or died of natural death, 233 were adopted and 243 were transferred to a rescue facility.
The funds generated by the shelter in 2008 totaled $18,001.35. This amount was a combination of fees from adoptions, reclaims and surrenders, as well as donations, raffles, rummage sales and other fundraisers.
Donations of goods such as food, leashes and litter, equalled $34,950 for 2008. As French mentioned during the meeting, these are the numbers for 2008. These amounts are not guaranteed for 2009.
But, Morris and Lange agreed that if Cherokee Village keeps the shelter at a low kill rate, donations and volunteers will remain higher. If the city turns the shelter into a city pound, they are likely to lose, not only volunteers, but donations as well.
Martin asked French for the records from 2006 and 2007. But, according to Morris, the previous animal control officer left no records.
"What did they spend money on in previous years?" Martin asked Cherokee Village Mayor Lloyd Hefley. "It was under your watch."
"It was under your watch, too," Hefley replied.
"But I wasn't the administrator," Martin said. "So, we don't know where all the money went that they spent?"
Martin addressed some of the advertisements the shelter has put on the radio stating that the shelter was created to protect the citizens of Cherokee Village, not the animals. "It is not a voice for the animals," Martin said.
He referred to the number of animal intakes in 2008, stating that he does not feel 500 animals came from Cherokee Village.
"I feel we should divorce the shelter from animal control and make them two separate entities," Martin said. "The shelter has proven it can support itself, so let's keep it and relocate an animal control for Cherokee Village."
"Since you have been here, you have put more time into adopting animals than you have enforcing the laws," Martin said to Morris.
"Since they have been here I think they have done an outstanding job," Hefley said. "The numbers speak for themselves."
Hefley told the council that he thinks the scenario that keeps the kill rate down is the best scenario. "We all (the council) need to put our thinking caps on and figure out how we can fund this," Hefley said.
"I would rather see $70,000 go toward two more police officers and roads, than to put it in that money pit out there," Martin told Hefley.
"We are not discussing if the money could be used other places, and we are not going to take money from anywhere else for it," Hefley said. "We are trying to find a way to fund the shelter particularly, that is what this meeting is about."
Hefley told the alderman to "Put on their thinking caps," and try to come up with a way to cover the shelter's budget. Horseshoe Bend has a $.95 fee that is added to the water bill each month and goes toward their animal control. Many of the citizens who attended thought that was a great idea as well as a fair cost to residents.
Alderman Verna Mae Newman said she didn't think the water department in Cherokee Village would go along with that idea. It was also discussed to add an animal control tax to the city taxes, which would have to be approved by a ballot vote in November.
French reminded everyone who attended that animal control is there for the citizens and they do provide a service for the city.
The council agreed to hold another working meeting pertaining to the shelter on April 20, at 6:30 p.m. "We want the public to come out and express their feelings on this matter," Hefley said.
"By the turn out of this meeting it seems the only citizens who are going to come out are those who support the shelter," Alderman Tom Thone said. "It would be nice to have input from both sides, we don't just want to hear from those against it if it comes to a ballot vote."