Batavia, Ohio – Unable to negotiate a contract with the sole bidder for animal shelter services, the Board of County Commissioners rejected the Clermont Animal CARE Humane Society’s (CACHS) proposal for 2021-2023.

Clermont Animal CARE Humane Society had requested a yearly contract of $848,726, more than double the current contract of $419,000.

According to a press release, Clermont County had countered with a $500,000 proposal, based on the research of what neighboring counties pay for animal services.

“The County has rejected our bid to continue running the Clermont County Animal Shelter at a 98% no-kill status in favor of running it themselves,” said a statement issued by CACHS. “The funding they offered failed to cover even basic services for dogs and provided no money for cats. We’re unable to continue financially supporting the County’s significant shortfall. So, it’s with great pain that we’ve made the decision to withdraw services from Clermont County.”

Commissioners stated that they are committed to a clean and well-maintained animal shelter that maintains a low euthanasia (or no-kill) philosophy. The County said that they want to keep the momentum going since first committing to keeping a low euthanasia rate in 2015.

According to the press release, In 2020, the County is paying $419,000 to CACHS, which was an increase over the $310,000 called for in the third year of the contract. The County also provides a 10,000 square-foot shelter at no charge. The shelter receives revenue from the Dog and Kennel Fund as well as a contribution from the County’s General Fund.

According to a statement by the County, “When adding in the costs of the shelter, its utilities and upkeep, the county’s funding is competitive to similar-sized counties.”

Now that the county has abandoned further negotiations they say they intend to provide a “top-quality animal shelter going forward.” The County plans to hire its own staff and continue to encourage the adoption and fostering of pets.

David Painter

“It was unfortunate that we were unable to get a contract with Clermont Animal CARE Humane Society,” said David Painter, President, Board of County Commissioners. “I want to thank all members of CACHS for a job well done providing animal care for the citizens of Clermont County.”

“It’s very unfortunate that we cannot come to agreement with an organization that has provided quality service over the past three years,” Commissioner Ed Humphrey said. “When we’re getting into budget reserves, we simply can’t afford to spend another $400,000 – especially when they were able to provide services at about the rate that was offered.”

Commissioner Claire Corcoran said: “In moving to the future, I’m dedicated to providing the best care possible in our shelter.”

CACHS says on their website, “Our hearts ache for a community of animals and people who now face an uncertain future.”

In a further statement, CACHS said, “We are crushed by the decision of the county to opt out of a humane society partnership that has paid dividends for Clermont County residents and animals and brought elite, nationally-recognized no-kill animal sheltering to the county.”

In a pop-up statement on their web site, Clermont Animal CARE Humane Society says, “We need your help to find forever homes for all the animals in the shelter. The County has made it clear they will only provide services for dogs within the state mandated 3 day stray hold effective January 1st.”

CACHS: What Exactly Happened?

Clermont animal services have been underfunded for decades. When Clermont Animal CARE signed a contract for $310,000 to begin services in January 2018, we assumed the money provided by the contract and offered by the county as the “estimated budget for services” covered the services required in the contract. We were wrong.

After 3 years of running the animal shelter at its highest level in county history and maintaining a 98% no-kill status, we uncovered that the county budget was woefully low. The money from the county was not even covering basic services and our humane society funds were being pulled every month to fill the gap. This shortfall left our humane society budget in the negative every month – financials that were reported to the county every quarter. We brought this to the attention of the county in the summer of 2019 and after several months of disagreements, we were given a small increase but were then asked to pay for building expenses that we, nor the previous operators, were not required to pay previously. Expenses that are outlined in the Ohio Revised Code as the responsibility of the county.

To run the Clermont County shelter at a 98% no kill level, it takes a budget of approximately $1.3 million to attract and keep exceptional staff and Animal Control officers, pay for lifesaving medical procedures, and provide community support. It costs money to save animals and the $848,000 we asked the county for is to cover the cost of the basic dog warden services they are obligated to provide per Ohio Revised Code 955, (at an average salary of $16/hr for our staff). Everything else? We’ll cover that with our humane society operational funds, donations and grant funding.

CACHS: What is No Kill?

Clermont County, as is their right per local ordinances and state law, is under no obligation to fund anything other than stray dog services. Services for owner-surrendered animals, keeping dogs alive past the 3 or 14-day stray hold, and any services for cats, are not required. That didn’t stop Clermont Animal CARE from providing those services – and WE’RE NOT ASKING THE COUNTY TO PAY FOR THAT. We will continue to do so, provided that they pay, for the first time ever, a fair budget for the services they are contracting for. We will help Clermont maintain the lifesaving we’ve achieved over the past 3 years and hold true to our calling of saving every savable animal.

If the county itself will be taking over the shelter on January 1st, with county employees assigned the task of carrying out basic county ordinances and obligations, what happens to pets whose owners can no longer keep them? What happens to stray dogs on Day 4? Will the county simply not take them in? Will stray dogs be given a chance at a live outcome after 4 days? What happens to cats? Will the citizens of Clermont just have to deal with seeing sick, injured, inbred cats with no options for helping them? Will the people of Clermont carry the burden of trying to find funding for vet care, transporting to spay and neuter clinics for TNR, or hope to get lucky that just one of the rescues or private shelters they call has the space available to say yes? We cannot imagine looking at the very people who elected you into your position and saying “too bad, we aren’t required to do anything to help you.”

CACHS: What Happens Next?

The county’s proposed staffing model and budget leave us highly concerned about their commitment to no-kill animal services. Simply put, they do not have the staff, expertise, industry network or money to keep Clermont’s no-kill levels where they are. Levels that they purport to be committed to – but if you’ll notice, they never mention cats in their reference to “no kill sheltering”. And it is alarming to us that in their very first move of taking over operations, we were informed in an email from County Administrator Tom Eigel dated 12/8/20 that the county will only take responsibility for dogs in the 3 or 14 day hold periods as of December 31, 2020. All dogs and other animals are the responsibility of the Society. So what they are saying is that any dog in the shelter prior to December 29th, any animal that was surrendered, and all cats currently in our care do not have a place in the county shelter beginning January 1st. That’s not the way No-Kill works.

Stay strong, Clermont County. Together, we have shown what can be done to save lives in our community. Clermont Animal CARE is still fully committed to continuing our work as the county animal services provider, but it’s time to say “no more” to underfunded budgets, undervalued services and taking advantage of the goodwill of the humane society and those in the community that care about animals.

It’s hard to get anyone to agree about anything in today’s political climate, but animals unite people across all backgrounds and party lines. The lives of these animals hang in the balance. If this is important to you, we encourage you to respectfully share your thoughts with your elected officials and ask them if they can spare 0.014% of their $85M surplus to fund elite lifesaving animal services with fair wages for the staff on the front lines.

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