Should Great Falls pay not-for-profit to handle adoptions of stray cats, dogs? Idea is on table – Great Falls Tribune

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The Animal Shelter takes in stray cats and dogs and provides adoption services. The city is discussing a proposal by Maclean Animal Adoption Center, a not-for-profit, to provide adoption services on behalf of the city.(Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/RION SANDERS)

The city of Great Fallsis looking into paying a not-for-profit animal adoption facilityto handle pet adoptions currently performed at the city-run animal shelter.

Would the change save the city money? Be healthier for itsstray catsand dogs?

Those questions were discussed at a City Commission work session Tuesday but not fully answered.

For us, this is about placing dogs and cats in the best possible environment while they are waiting for a home, said Pam Volk, executive director ofthe Maclean-Cameron Animal Adoption Center, 900 25th Ave N.E.

Maclean has submitted a proposal to the city in which it would assume responsibility for adoption services, foster services, fundraising and education on behalf of the city for $475,000 a year.

Maclean built a new facility in 2015.

Under the proposal, the city-run Animal Shelter,1010 25th Ave. N.E., would retain responsibility for intake and release of stray animals following 72- to 96-hour holds for impounded strays.

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The city would also continue to operate its crematorium and animal control.

As far as cutting our expenses and cutting our costs, its really hard to trim the fat on an anorexic program, said Lynn Formell, the city's shelter manager, who doesn't want to lose adoption services.

The city shelter spends $129,000 on adoption services and $491,000 on stray services annually.

There were 1,400 strays brought in last year.

The city spends another $250,000, through the police department budget, on animal control.

I am interested in a very tight budget where were constantly being told we cant do this, we cant do this. And we are spending $129,000 on adoption when literally a stones throw away theres another outfit that does it.

While it is a difficult decision for the Commission, Mary Sheehy Moe saidcommissioners are obligated to have the conversation to see if services the city provides can be provided at a lower cost.

I am interested in a very tight budget where were constantly being told we cant do this, we cant do this, Sheehy Moe said. And we are spending $129,000 on adoption when literally a stones throw away theres another outfit that does it.

Moe and other commissionersnoted theywould need more details on potential cost savings before moving adoption services from the city shelter to Maclean.

If we get much further down the road here were going to have some guarantees, Commissioner Rick Tryon added.

Libbey Winderl, president of the Maclean board, said Maclean wasnt at the meeting to nurse old grudges between Animal Shelter and Maclean supportersbut to summarize a proposal that she said had advantages for the city.

Maclean can provide superior quality of care with its new facility, Winderl said.

Astudy of the 1972 city shelter concluded it was outdated, she said.

The citys adoption rate in 2019 was 50%, she said.

The city is discussing a proposal by Maclean Animal Adoption Center, a not-for-profit, to provide adoption services on behalf of the city.(Photo: Tribune file photo)

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Maclean's was 96%.

It makes sense for city taxpayers to benefit from a state-of-the-art facility, she said.

It also would be smart to use the strengths of each facility and endthe competition for limited funds, Winderl said.

Formell, the city's animal shelter manager, said shes turned the animal shelter around.

Almost every deficiency cited in the report on the shelter has been fixed, she said, adding shes dug deep to find costs savings, too, she said.

Weve worked our tails off not to become the pound from 1973, Formell said.

Shelter employees workhard finding dogs and cats homes, and rehabilitating them when necessary, Formell said.

They find great satisfaction in the work, she added.

Commissioner Tracy Houck said it is frustrating to see the different sides throw each other under the bus at meetings.

Its like a cat fight, Houck said.

Its not productive, Winderl agreed.

Have we at any point in time sat around a table? Houck said.

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I would love to, Winderlsaid.

Mayor Bob Kelly said he still has more questions.

The Commission is a long wayfrom a taking vote, he added.

"I think we'll have another conversation about this," Kelly said.

Karl Puckett covers the city of Great Falls and Cascade County for the Tribune. He can be reached atkpuckett@greatfallstribune.com or 406-750-5383, or on Twitter at@GFTrib_KPuckett.

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Should Great Falls pay not-for-profit to handle adoptions of stray cats, dogs? Idea is on table - Great Falls Tribune

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