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Public weighs in on ACPR financing

by GABRIEL DAVIS
Staff Writer | October 24, 2023 5:01 PM

OTHELLO — About a dozen members of the public provided citizen input on Adams County Pet Rescue’s financial predicament at Monday’s Othello City Council meeting.

ACPR board member Tammy Foley said that it is ACPR’s goal to reach a place where it is financially stable and doesn’t have to ask for large amounts of money.

“But we just need some money for right now to help us get through this hard time that we're going through,” Foley said.

Othello resident Kim Bailey said if the city wanted to go back to the way it was before ACPR existed, with the city in charge of animal control, it would have to start from scratch.

“We want to support what we have,” Bailey said. “What we have now is a professionally run organization. So I just really want to fully fund it and all the agencies involved to be involved with funding it and keeping it alive.”

Othello resident Stephanie Lounsbury-Griffin also voiced her support.

“What does it say about us as people, as a community, if we're OK with turning our heads (away from) these animals that are wandering, dumped, scared, injured, sick, starving? … Thank you so much for hearing us. I hope you find a way to help. I will gladly pay an extra tax to fund them in a sustainable manner, so they don’t have to beg for donations.”

Former Othello Council member Dale Wyman asked if ACPR had plans to stay financially stable.

“What is your plan for the future and not getting back into this problem?” asked Wyman. “That council has to make a decision for where that money's coming from. Do they reach in their pocket and say we've got 35 employees, we’ll pull out that guy's name … we’ll fire him and we'll give it to Pet Rescue? Nobody wants that.”

After the comments, Mayor Shawn Logan said he would like to brainstorm solutions, and that the city council had placed an additional $50,000 in its upcoming budget — which hasn’t been finalized or funded yet — for ACPR on top of the $52,000 that the city already contributes.

Logan explained how ACPR had evolved out of what used to be animal control in Othello.

“The level of care of animals increased exponentially,” Logan said. “That level of care, I want you to know, we do appreciate it as a city council and we do know and recognize it's a much more humane scenario.”

Logan said that ACPR needs to find some way to hold fewer dogs and become more efficient, to cut down on the cost of housing the animals.

“You've got to get this to a manageable level because you're feeding dogs for six months to two years and you can't afford to do it,” Logan said. “And how humane is that, for an animal to sit in a cage for six months to two years? That's not humane.”

Adams County Pet Rescue Director Kyya Grant responded to the council.

“I want everyone to realize this is not an Othello problem. This is a nationwide problem with too many dogs, too many large-breed dogs,” Grant said. “We have a contract with the city that says we take any dog that comes in that we get a call about, so we go out and we grab those dogs. It doesn't matter how full we are because we have a contract. We are honoring that contract.”

Euthanasia would reduce ACPR’s expenses but presents moral and practical challenges.

“I can guarantee you if we become a kill shelter, that $200,000 we have in donations will dry up. Then who is going to cover that extra $200,000?” asked Grant.

Logan said that he is not recommending that the ACPR start euthanizing animals.

Grant said one potential solution is to increase spaying and neutering, but the community must be made aware of the issue.

“Your citizens and the county citizens are letting their dogs breed, letting them run through the county, through the city, rampantly. No one wants to spend the money, nobody cares to get their dog spayed or neutered,” Grant said.

Logan suggested holding a giveaway for dogs in order to lower the number of dogs housed at the shelter. He also said that the city had spoken with Grant regarding a special levy or sales tax, but ACPR is currently not eligible for a special levy.

Wyman asked if ACPR could form an independent taxing district. City Attorney Kelly E. Konkright said he wasn’t sure if the ACPR would be eligible. Nonetheless, Logan said public support would likely be high for voting in a tax district.

“We have to weather this out, as a nation, as a state, we have to weather this out,” Grant said. “The economy is poor, adoptions go down; it's just a fact.”

Logan elaborated on the economic side of the issue.

“We are a disadvantaged community. Our median household income is considerably less than the state average. About a third less, so you're fighting that. You're fighting an education problem. You're fighting a lot of problems,” Logan said. “In here somewhere there is a solution. There is. But I think everybody's going to have to compromise … I certainly appreciate everyone turning out and making your voice heard … we'll just continue the discussion if we can.”

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com. Davis lives in Othello with his family and covers South Grant County and Adams County.

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GABRIEL DAVIS/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

Community member Ernie Summers speaks at Monday’s Othello City Council meeting, where multiple citizens commented on Adams County Pet Rescue’s financial situation.

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GABRIEL DAVIS/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

The audience, pictured, at Monday’s Othello City Council meeting, which heard numerous citizen comments about Adams County Pet Rescue.