County council extends dog-control contact for final year

The Sussex County Council voted at their meeting Nov. 29 to extend for another year the County’s dog-control contract with the Delaware Animal Care & Control/Kent County SPCA, starting Jan. 1, 2012, and going until Dec. 31, 2012. The county receives 24/7 dispatch coverage for staff, vehicles and services that include the pick-up of stray animals and vaccinations.

Delaware Animal Care & Control is also responsible for dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs, disaster response, daily patrols, follow-ups, adoption hours, shelter access, transfer to other facilities, euthanasia as needed and investigation into canine abuse.

Sussex County has been responsible for licensing and dog control since Jan. 1, 2010, when the responsibility was transferred from the State of Delaware, and part of the original contract to provide dog control service for the County offered an option for two one-year extensions of that contract beyond the initial year, explained Eddy Parker, director of assessments for the County.

The county council also discussed on Tuesday perhaps performing the services they currently contract out to Kent County SPCA in-house or possibly undertaking a study to see if that would be cost-effective.

Representatives of Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary again this year wrote a letter, which County Attorney Everett Moore read aloud, stating their interest in receiving the dog-control contract for the year. Parker said he would like to see an organization up and running and “fully operational” before rewarding them with “an almost-three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar contract.”

Safe Haven is still in the process of becoming fully operational at its facilities near Georgetown.

“I’m not opposed to any organization, but I think you need to take into consideration what they do, what they have done,” Parker said.

He added that the transition to using Kent County has been “surprisingly smooth” and complaints have been “few and far between.”

Councilman Sam Wilson asked what it costs to contract dog control out. Parker said that last year’s contract was for $669,000. They took in $120,000 in dog licensing fees, for a loss of more than $500,000. He pointed out that it “wasn’t a money-maker.”

Previously, the County contributed toward funding for the State-run dog-control services, but council members acknowledged when the change was made by the state legislature that the transfer was coming mostly as an unfunded mandate, as dog-licensing fees were running far below the cost of the operation.

“We need to look at something,” said Wilson, adding that he liked what Safe Haven had said in their letter and they could “save the taxpayers’ money.”

Because this was the last extension available under the prior contract, a new request for proposals for the County’s dog-control contract will go out sometime next summer, explained Parker, with a decision possibly coming next fall.