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Cottonwood Heights Journal

More cities consider alternatives to Utah’s largest no-kill animal services provider

Aug 28, 2017 05:38PM ● By Aspen Perry

Free Feline Fix is sponsored by Utah FACES and Petsmart Charities. (SL County Animal Services)

By Aspen Perry  |   [email protected]

After the announcement of Riverton City deciding to part ways with Salt Lake County Animal Services by 2018 due to cost increase, should advocates of the no-kill philosophy be worried more cities might part ways with Utah’s largest no kill municipal shelter? 

During a June meeting with Holladay City Council and representatives of Salt Lake County Animal Services, council members expressed concern regarding the city of Holladay being able to sustain the rise in cost. Though Holladay City has not announced plans to stop Salt Lake County Animal Services, they are looking into more affordable alternatives. 

“Our budget is basically flat, while yours is not,” said Lynn Pace, District 2 representative of Holladay City Council when speaking with Salt Lake County representatives. 

In previous years, contracting cities paid a variable rate for various animal services offered. This was changed to a fixed cost of $9.63 per resident, which Salt Lake County felt was a better approach to be fair and consistent.

“Whether we’re helping youth in the community or providing free spay/neuters to at-home seniors, our services have an impact on the entire community,” said Callista Pearson, marketing and communication manager with Salt Lake County Animal Services. 

“Salt Lake County Animal Services is proud to be a proactive agency, addressing issues before they become problems,” she said.

Pearson said this program includes services such as micro-chipping and vaccine clinics, park patrol to educate dog owners about leash laws, humane education in schools and handling animal-related incidents 24/7, 365 days a year. 

Pearson cited a follow-up statistic in regards to the recent article, in the South Valley Journal, discussing Riverton’s decision to cut ties with Salt Lake County Animal Control “Riverton’s live release rate before was at 73 percent. Since contracting with our agency, the rate is now at 97 percent — that is 500 pets who went on to find new families.”

As Pearson explained, the philosophy of no kill goes beyond just long-term shelter of lost and homeless pets to encompass long-term solutions to animal overpopulation and care. 

“Our philosophy is to solve the problem, not just manage the symptoms of the problem,” said Pearson. 

Based on the statistics provided by Salt Lake County Animal Services, it would appear the programs offered through the no-kill initiative are improving the status for pets and their families, but will residents feel the services are worth the cost if it means their city has to make cuts in another area?

“We might need to ask Holladay citizens if the extra cost is worth it to them,” Pace said.

It’s a sentiment similar to what Riverton Mayor Bill Applegarth’s has planned for residents in his city. According to Applegarth, Riverton City Council was still working out the details of shelter options, and was not sure at this time if they would choose no-kill. 

“We are working on the shelter to use for our animals. When we get all the details worked out we will be holding open houses,” said Applegarth. 

Currently, Salt Lake County Animal Services serves Bluffdale, Herriman, Holladay, Midvale, Millcreek, Riverton, Salt Lake and the Salt Lake County metro townships of Copperton, Emigration Canyon, Kearns, Magna and White City. They hope to continue to serve these communities despite the current unease in city budgets. 

While Salt Lake County introduced a three-step plan to help ease the cost transition, some cities’ annual cost is raising upwards of 20–30 percent of their allotted budget, which may still be out of reach for some cities. 

Pearson expressed the importance of the agency to offer competitive fee structure.

“Our cost for services is still comparable to the neighboring communities who do not offer a no-kill facility,” Pearson said. 

Though Salt Lake County Animal Services is able to keep some costs low through grants awarded to no-kill programs, in an additional attempt to keep costs low the agency has increased the fee structure for individual services, increased private fundraising efforts and placed a hiring freeze to help tighten their belt. 

As cities begin to shop more affordable options, both city representatives and Salt Lake County Animal Services suggest residents voice their preference of the kill vs. no-kill philosophy in order for their city representatives to acquire apples-to-apples comparisons.