Monday, April 30, 2012

What Does The Future Hold?

It's been a fairly eventful time for animal welfare in Delaware during the month of April. As you might recall, last month we got the news that Delaware SPCA was giving up the animal control in Wilmington. Well it's also becoming more clear that there is a good chance that the same may occur in all 3 of our counties. Below is the PBS video discussed in the previous post for anyone interested.

Watch First for Friday, April 20, 2012 on PBS. See more from First.

Kent County SPCA posted the following to their website and Facebook regarding the fact that they may have to make some tough choices as a result of CAPA.
"This year the KCSPCA is facing a critical point of operations, and we are asking for your help. The Board of Directors is currently exploring termination of all animal control contracts as a result of the shelter’s increased financial expenses. Were this to occur, major additional funding will be required by the agency chosen to implement a new program.

Additionally, when Senate Bill 280 passed in 2010, it created conflicts between the KCSPCA and our contractual county governments, animal shelter directors, and members of the public. This unfunded mandate has continued to nurture an environment of conflicts, costing our residents, both human and animal, valuable resources."

There's no doubt that CAPA being enacted after KCSPCA was already under contract with the counties has caused financial harm to them. Obviously they weren't able to include the costs associated with this law nto their contracts when it was enacted mid contract. But then again, that's the ridiculous way our legislature works in Delaware. No fiscal impact statement was included with the CAPA legislation regarding what it might cost the counties in the future, or the financial impact on non-profit organizations providing animal control services under their current contracts. I'm sure it is a difficult position to be in for Kent County SPCA. When you have responsibility for employees depending on their livelihood, the organization must weigh their own financial stability against trying to not abandon their employees.

So what will the future hold for Delaware if Kent County SPCA decides to give up animal control for our counties? As discussed previously, we need only look slightly north to Delaware County PA. The costs associated with building  a shelter and contracting with various communities within the county still has their community in a state of flux, and this has been going on since early last year.  And this could occur here for all 3 counties at the same time which will magnify the problems even more.

So lets say the counties are able to get their own animal control divisions in place quickly. What does that mean for Delaware citizens?  Well most likely it will require 2-3 times the cost that counties were previously paying to Kent County SPCA. Some will think that is great, more funding for animal control, that's a good thing isn't it?  No, because that cost will reflect higher paying county salaries with the perks and retirements. It will also include costs for dealing with the constant complaints and lawsuits that will be directed at the counties once they are the only open admission entities, so that won't include additional money directed to helping animals in any way.  After I watched the Kent County council meeting in a previous post, I really don't think the counties understand that they will also have to deal with the ramifications of CAPA, like having to produce documentation for complaints to the Attorney General, Dept. of Agriculture, and various legislators. My bet is that the counties will finally get off their rears at that point and fight to get CAPA repealed, but at that point we will have already headed down the downward slope.

What will it mean to shelters if counties take over animal control?  I've seen leadership from some the shelters who seem to think it will be a good thing.  But if the counties cost is several times it's previous cost, the counties either need to pull money from other programs or raise taxes. Do shelters really think the counties won't tell the public why either of those options had to be done?   And do they really believe that isn't going to impact donations to the shelters?

The counties will then be the face of animal welfare in Delaware. Will that impact donations to shelters. Absolutely. How many people donate to shelters because their pet was returned to them safely. If it's the county returning their pets home safely, and taxpayers are paying additional taxes, it's crazy to believe that this won't impact the financial well being of our animal shelters. So while some think I'm arguing against more funds going to animal control that could help Delaware become "no-kill", that's not the case. I understand business, and the fact is the shelter wars in Delaware have not been good for any shelter in this state, and surely not good for the animals.

If the donor base shrinks even a small amount, how will that impact the shelters? The fact is, we have a higher animal shelter concentration for a tri-county area than most.  In fact part of what brought about the shelter wars in the first place is competition for limited funds available, and as I've stated, CAPA was an attempt to eliminate some of the competition. So we will see all shelters struggle to stay in business once the counties take the reins. The weak will die, and then the others will stabiliize as we get back to a healthy level. That's simple business analysis, not rocket science. So for those that think I'm speaking out to harm the "no-kill" shelters, you couldn't be more wrong. I understand that the most likely to go under are in fact the newest shelters, and those are both "no-kill". You merely need to look at the financials to come to that conclusion. The amusing part of the scenario is that Kent County SPCA is the only one that doesn't have competition within it's county, and will fare the best if animal control goes to the counties.  So in the end, they may be the ones getting the last laugh.

So what will we have to show for CAPA?  Counties will then be dealing with the constant complaints, and taxpayers will be paying more for the same services. Most likely a couple shelters will go under as a result of lost donations due to negative public opinion about additional taxes or lost services at the county level, and they will probably be the no-kill shelters that brought us CAPA.  And sadly we will still have too many animals, and it may even be worse for the animals since counties have to be even more cautious than KCSPCA, so they don't end up in lawsuits like the one in Delaware County SPCA, especially when they see brilliant newspaper captions like this:
"Grizzy, a rottie/chow mix, gets ready for his new home. He came to Safe Haven from Kent County, where he was wrongly labeled aggressive. In truth, he’s a lover boy looking for a calm, quiet home. Interested in finding Grizzy his forever home?" - Cape Gazette 4-20-12
 And hopefully, the legislators and governor that created this situation with CAPA will continue to have to deal with the consequences of this legislation.  After seeing so many states make the right decision this year and steer clear of CAPA and it's derivatives, I really have to agree with the D- rating under Legislative Accountability section for Delaware's corruption risk report card.   CAPA had cronyism written all over it, and eventually everyone in Delaware will be paying the price, and so will the animals.