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City, ACPR advisor discuss Othello animal control contract

by GABRIEL DAVIS
Staff Writer | March 6, 2024 1:35 AM

OTHELLO — Retired veterinarian Ernie Summers addressed the Othello City Council during the Feb. 26 meeting to raise concerns about Adams County Pet Rescue’s sheltering contract negotiations with the city, which fell through in December.

Summers stated he is not an ACPR board member, but has been an advisor for ACPR for 13 years and was involved in the negotiations for ACPR’s 2024 contract with the city. 

Negotiation concerns

Summers said the negotiations began with ACPR requesting $150,000 in funding for 2024, and that the expense of providing for city dogs is about $300,000.

“The mayor countered with an offer of $100,000 and the city would take over animal control,” Summers said. “This seemed like a fair offer to us and it met all of our criteria. Unfortunately, it included two provisions that we could not accept. Number one, it required us to euthanize a certain number of animals. We are a certified no-kill facility. If we did that, we would lose our accreditation, and a large amount of our donations would dry up.”

Othello Mayor Shawn Logan addressed Summers’ comments in a later interview. He stated that the contract did not require euthanizing a certain number of animals. He said the city intends to euthanize dangerous and marauding dogs that are a threat to residents or other animals.

The contract offered to ACPR mentioned “disposal” of dangerous dogs once, and did not mention euthanasia elsewhere.

“For dangerous dogs, as defined by the Othello Municipal Code 6.04.120, after the holding period … expires, ACPR shall continue to hold the vicious dog(s) until such time that the City authorizes disposal of the dog(s),” the draft contract states.

ACPR stated from the very beginning of negotiations it is unwilling to euthanize dogs. The other part of the contract Summers said ACPR didn’t agree with required the agency to accept dogs only through animal control officers, and not take surrenders or strays.

“This would require a lot more time and effort and it would result in even more animals being abandoned into the county,” Summers said. “ACPR estimates that approximately two-thirds of the abandoned animals that we have to deal with, that we pick up out in the county, are actually animals that come from here in Othello.”

Logan said this provision was a move to help the ACPR reduce their dog numbers and encourage dog-owner responsibility.

“From the city's perspective, taking any and all dogs was allowing owner irresponsibility, and in fact by doing that, they were encouraging owner irresponsibility, and that was our position,” Logan said.

The contract also said that the city would take over 100% of animal control responsibilities and dog licensing.

“We wanted them to take steps to bring the shelter into a place where they didn't have so many dogs,” Logan said. 

Funding disparity

Both Summers and Logan explained that ACPR used to rely on significant donations from one community member to keep offering its services at the same level, but that community member is now deceased. As a result, the agency is struggling to come up with funds to keep its doors open.

“They no longer have that source of revenue, and so now they are trying to work through a very difficult transition, and in order to work through that transition, they're going to have to make some changes,” Logan said. “We were only making suggestions. We were just trying to help them.”

Summers said Logan told ACPR he would take the $100,000 proposal to the council after ACPR told him they would not accept euthanizing any dogs or only taking in dogs from animal control.

“The last time I talked to them, I said, ‘Maybe I can get the city council to agree to $100,000,’ and I was going to come back, but when we had the meeting … a council member made mention (that) they want us to triple the amount that we're paying them and they're going to do less work, because we're going to take over dog pickup and we're going to do the licensing,” Logan said. “I'm not for that, and the other council members agreed with that statement…$75,000 was all they were willing to negotiate with in that moment.”

Summers explained this from his perspective as an advisor to ACPR.

“Nothing was mentioned about the euthanasia mandates or the ability to take surrenders,” Summers said. “In our mind, negotiations were still open, but we never heard anything back from Mayor Logan or (council members) after that. We did not find out until a month after this that the city was negotiating with another provider behind our backs.”

Logan said ACPR responded to the formal offer of $75,000 — with the city responsible for animal control and licensing and the stipulations regarding dangerous dogs and only accepting dogs from animal control officers — through a letter dated Dec. 8 and signed by ACPR Board President Ken Simmons declining the offer.

“We are unable to provide sheltering services for that fee,” the letter said. “To provide sheltering services to the city of Othello in 2024, Adams County Pet Rescue is requesting $150,000 in funding … We are asking for true service rendered and to be compensated for that service. Unless compensation is agreed upon our service ends December 31st.”

Logan outlined the city’s response to this letter.

“We basically had three weeks to go put something together. The city council felt that the negotiation was over. The city council was not willing to pay (ACPR) $150,000, and they said that it was $150,000 or nothing. That's what the letter said,” Logan said. “There wasn't any room in negotiation in that, and the city has the responsibility, so the city had to take action. So we didn't go behind their back, they basically ended that negotiation then and there.”

Hand N Paws Animal Assistance reached out to the city about providing dog sheltering services, Logan said. The city council voted to approve a one-year contract with Hands N Paws during the Feb. 12 regular meeting.

“The city council, when it made its decision to go a different route, did so, I think, for good reasons,” Logan said. “But at the same time, the pet rescue is still a good operation. They still love animals. They still care. They still do a great job taking care of animals, and I know they're doing their best to continue to run their operation. I just hope that during this transitional time for them, that they're able to find a way to streamline their operation and continue to be relevant.”

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com. 

    Othello City Council member Genna Dorow and Othello Mayor Shawn Logan discuss the city’s contract with Adams County Pet Rescue during an October 2023 regular city council meeting.
 
 
    A dog taken in by Adams County Pet Rescue sits outside ACPR’s facility on Bench Road in Othello. Since the beginning of the year, ACPR has only accepted county dogs after declining the city’s contract for sheltering services.
 
 
    Adams County Pet Rescue’s facility on Bench Road, in Othello. In a February statement, ACPR stated that it refused the city of Othello’s contract offer because the $75,000 flat fee did not cover enough of the agency’s $300,000 expenses from providing for city dogs.