Columbia city manager Bill Watkins tackled the same issue in a series of email exchanges with this writer and the city council.
In Columbia, the humane society is a strange hybrid -- both privately-funded animal adoption center and publicly-funded animal control facility or "dog pound."
Unlike most communities of comparable size, Columbia/Boone County does not have a municipal animal control facility.
Instead, the city and several counties essentially "graft" the duties of a municipal animal control facility onto CMHS, which itself has a different mission -- rescue rather than control.
The lack of public support for the public function is the shelter's largest budget issue, CMHS director Patty Forister said. While animal control takes in about half the shelter's yearly animal total, CMHS only receives about 1/10th of its annual budget from public sources -- $100,000 from the city of Columbia and $10,000 from the county of Boone.
"I do think it's up to the city and county to come together on this with adequate funding," Elkin told Morning Meeting listeners. "I also think we should build a new animal control facility. It's basically an issue of public health and it's long overdue."
Elkin's thinking is in line with the City of Springfield, which provides an animal control facility "as a service to the citizens of Springfield, and to protect public health." Elkin said he was "meeting shortly" with city leaders on the issue, which he agreed was at "a crisis stage."
Watkins confirmed that "one of the options we are studying is to build our own 'pound' to handle animal control issues. Earlier this week, we met with CMHS reps for the first time that either [Boone/Columbia Health Department director] Stephanie Browning or I can remember regarding their financial condition. I
Watkins also noted that "many other jurisdictions including the State Ag Department use the facility at little or no cost," a problem Forister confirmed. "We have about 20 counties that send animals our way, but not one of those counties contributes anything to our budget," she said.
This "free rider" problem may grow with a new facility, Watkins argued. "I think there is a case to be made that a new facility is needed, but I'm skeptical that the city should pay for it and that a new, bigger facility would not just make the operational issues worse."
Watkins also said that he thinks the city pays its "fair share."
"We average 11-12 animals boarded for animal control reasons per day over the last five years," Watkins explained. "From just a pound perspective, I think we pay our share -- a little over $25/day per animal for boarding. I pay less than that to board our dogs at Hortons Animal Hospital when we leave town. (Both our dogs are from the Humane society or a rescue.) "
Animal control in Springfield, MO
A History of Animal Control in Los Angeles, Calif.