Cheyenne Mayor: Financial Dispute Led to Ending of Animal Shelter Contract
Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins says a disagreement over financial responsibility is what ultimately led the city and Laramie County not to renew their long-standing contract with the Cheyenne Animal Shelter.
Collins in his Mayor's Minute column Friday shared the thought process and information that went into the decision.
It was a sad day for me as I sent a letter to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter (CAS) informing them that the city and county recommended not renewing our contract with their organization. That partnership changed in 2021 when the CAS informed the city that they were discontinuing animal control services. Therefore, the city and county worked together to take on this vital service. Since then, we have contracted animal sheltering services.
I want to take a few minutes to share the thought process and information that went into this hard decision. In 2021, Dr. Samantha Vernon was the board chairperson of the CAS, and she wrote an article outlining a fundamental change from a model of “population control” to a model of “community social services.” She was critical of our efforts to control the cost of animal control and sheltering services.
Dr. Vernon shared that a model of community social services included things like providing veterinary services for low-income people, pet food, euthanasia, and crematory services for the same group, boarding services for folks in the hospital, a community cat program, training of emotional support animals, animal behavioral services, among other things. The question is, should public tax dollars be spent to support these very worthy services? We have shared with the CAS that these services are what folks donate money to, such as the Fur Ball, Day of Giving, and other charitable endeavors, and are not appropriate expenditures of tax dollars.
To pay for these social service programs, the CAS believes the city and county are responsible for paying 70 percent of their total general fund budgeted for $2.5 million. For the city and county, that cost would amount to $1.75 million. For the past two years that I have been mayor, the city and county have questioned what our financial responsibility should be. That is where the big rub comes into the picture. If you can’t even agree on what our responsibilities are, how do you agree on the funding?
During last year’s negotiations, the current board president, Richard Mincer, shared, “This is the price, and if you don’t like it, then do it yourself.” Unfortunately, we have reached that point. In 2020, the city paid the CAS their ask of $320,000 a year. In 2022 that number went up to $350,000. We understood the need for a cost-of-living increase. However, in 2022, the increase went up to 51 percent---$528,000. The letter we were sent on February 10, 2023, raised that number an additional 53 percent to $812,500 from the city. The letter also informed us that the number would have to go up an additional 40 percent in the subsequent contract. Since the adoption of the community service model, the total city/county contract has grown from $492,000 to $1.75 million in just a few years.
I recognize this will be disappointing for many of you, as it has been for all of us.
So, what is our plan? We have found a building that would be great for a municipal shelter operation. We have created a business plan to hire and train staff to take care of the animals our control officers pick up. We will do our very best to get the lost animals back to their homes, and for those without homes, work with regional rescues and humane societies to help find them loving homes. I ask you to look at the amazing way the city took over animal control and give us some time to do the same with animal sheltering.
We hope the Cheyenne Animal Shelter will partner with the city/county going forward to help find loving homes for the animals, as we will need support going forward.