A rescued cat at the county animal shelter in Upper Marlboro

A rescued cat at the county animal shelter in Upper Marlboro (Source: The Gazette)

At tomorrow’s worksession, the City Council will discuss a draft feasibility study and proposed scope of services for a North County animal services facility and facility staffing.

Over the past few months, an ad-hoc committee including elected offiCials and staff from the Four Cities, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) , and Prince George’s County Department of the Environment (PGDOE), has met to discuss the potential for a North County animal services facility, and the potential for shared governance and staffing of such a facility.

The City has budgeted up to $25,000 to supplement County funding of such a feasibility study. Other Four Cities partners have committed to smaller, or no, funding: Greenbelt and Berwyn Heights have committed to $5,000 each; New Carrollton has not committed any funding.

Staff has raised a number of questions about the shelter.

First, there has been no Council commitment for future, long term, shared funding of the construction, operation, or staffing of a North County facility. It is recommended that no further funding commitment be made until the feasibility study report and recommendations are available. The study should include a cost benefit analysis of all possible sources and uses of funds, and all options for construction and management of a facility.

Second, A North County facility could alleviate the City’s reliance on Animal Welfare Committee. volunteers to assist our Animal Control Officer with shelter and foster care, and shelter housekeeping when the ACO is not available. Opportunities for AWC and community volunteer activity could still continue at a North County facility. The AWC may need to evaluate their role in City and County sponsored adoption and animal care programs. AWC fund raising for a North County shelter may need to be structured differently than the current City-sponsored program.

Third, A North County facility could replace the current City animal holding facility with a more modern facility which is accessible to the public for ease of adoptions. However, if the feasibility study determines that the most cost effective and beneficial facility would serve all North County municipalities and communities , it probably should be constructed and maintained by County, private grants, and fee based funds, rather than Four Cities funding. Any potential tax differential provided by City funding of a North County facility would be negligible. It is estimated that an average City household would only net an additional $1 .82 per year in tax differential if the County granted a 100% animal management tax differential. City property owners currently receive an 80% tax differential due to the City’s eXisting animal control program. (Estimate based on US Census 2013 data with average single family dwelling valued at $304,000).

Finally, Joint staffing may be potentially problematic. Staffing and governance of a North County facility by a consortium of County and local governments could be challenging. Based on recent ACO data, we would expect to transport approximately 90 animals per year to the new shelter. There would be some amount of efficiency gained in the City Animal Control program by not having to transport certain animals to the Upper Marlboro facility, and not having to maintain a City holding facility. However, the additional time available may be best used by increasing City ACO patrols and community animal care education, rather than assigning staff time to ass’ist at a North County shelter. The City ACO would be expected to continue close coordination with County AMG. And, the County AMG would continue to be the backup when the City ACO is off duty.

The Council will discuss editing the draft feasibility study in order to direct that all potential funding, construction, operations and staffing options be identified and compared for cost effectiveness and maximization of public and animal benefits for the County and municipalities.