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It’s More Than Just A Number

Thanksfiving FiftyGuest Editorial Printed in Today’s News Herald 12/19/13

Since 1978 the Western Arizona Humane Society (WAHS) has been dedicated to the rescue, care and placement of unwanted and abandoned animals and the elimination of pet overpopulation. That is our non-profit mission that governs our programs and services.

We have provided animal care to the citizens and the City of Lake Havasu starting with a small facility to today’s current shelter, all funded and maintained by donations. The recent proposal brought before the city council to build a shelter next to the police department to house only stray animals is redundant when WAHS and the City of Lake Havasu enjoy a successful and service oriented partnership.

We applaud the efforts of City staff and council in protecting and looking at alternatives for taxpayer dollars. A decision of this magnitude is more far-reaching than just where you house stray animals for the required length of stay.

WAHS is an open admission shelter which takes in animals regardless of age, temperament, stray or owner give up. On any given day we will house between 95 and 150 pets depending on how many litters, strays and owner give ups we receive. While in our care we provide a safe haven for the animals with basic health exam, behavior assessment, and socialization. We are open to the public 6 days a week, and have compassionate animal care staff that provide for the shelters guests 7 days a week (yes, even on holidays). We currently have a 93% live release rate (that reflects all animals that were adopted or returned to owner). Other communities do not enjoy such success ranging from 35% to 79%. For an open admission shelter that percentage is a reflection of the importance the community places on the pets in our community.

The shelter services go beyond just housing animals. We provide educational programs, training options for owners to be able to keep their pets, affordable euthanasia for humane end of life. Since the early1990’s we have provided low cost/no cost spay neuter for the general public through our SNIP (Spay Neuter Incentive Program). This aggressive program has resulted in curbing the pet population in our community as compared to other areas. Through grant funding and donations we have been able to offer fee waived adoptions for seniors, veterans, military families, giving us the ability to find forever homes.

There has been discussion that the costs for housing the animals is too high comparatively to other cities. The figures presented from contracts in other jurisdictions, although correct, only reflected a portion of the overall animal activities in those cities. In most of the cities that were cited, a humane society will contract with several areas, all under one roof, giving them the ability to share costs under several contracts. Specifically noted was the City of Kingman as a comparison. The City of Kingman budget represents only a small portion of the overall operation in Mohave County, As an example, The City of Kingman took in 1076 live animals from Animal Care & Control and the public. A total of 546 of those were stray animals with only 120 reclaimed from their owners (22%). Compared to Lake Havasu a total of 1722 animals entered our facility, 766 of those were stray, quarantine, agency assist or welfare, of which 339 were reclaimed (44%)

. The challenge in comparing costs to other areas is magnified by the variety of factors that address community expectations, building ownership, the ability to contract with multiple agencies, veterinary expenses, retention of fees, and live release rates. We also caution using figures that have been quoted, as every community calculates costs differently, whether it is a per day cost or overall costs, based on what is included in those costs. The benefits of a partnership with the City of Lake Havasu provides a humane community by sharing facilities and operational costs. This ongoing relationship provides the best level of service to the citizens with the Police Department providing enforcement and the Western Arizona Humane Society providing expertise in animal welfare.

We will continue to open dialog with the City of Lake Havasu to provide the best possible outcome to support the intrinsic value to a humane environment for all of us. We encourage you to contact us should have any additional questions or concerns.

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