County leans toward its own animal shelter
Possible sites scouted; additional information on operations needed
The St. Mary’s commissioners informally agreed Tuesday to pursue a no/ low-kill animal shelter specifically for this county, instead of partnering with Charles County for a dual shelter, but did not commit to that plan as questions — including how much it will cost to operate — remained.
Calvert County is already building its own animal shelter. The three Southern Maryland counties have been using the Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville for 56 years.
The three counties each pay a percentage toward the operation of the
tri-county shelter, with St. Mary’s paying about $389,625 a year, said Bob Kelly, chief information officer for the department of emergency services and technology, which oversees the animal control division.
According to a consultant study, it could cost St. Mary’s County government $1.1 million annually to operate a new no/low-kill shelter of its own once a new building is built. The expected income could be $1.2 million.
A new animal shelter expressly for St. Mary’s County is estimated to cost $2.3 million for a standard facility, or $3.8 million for a no/low-kill operation, according to the consultants.
The fiscal 2018 St. Mary’s County budget includes a new animal shelter building for Charles and St. Mary’s at an estimated cost of $8.3 million, with the two counties splitting the cost. St. Mary’s would pay $4.2 million.
But the commissioners on Tuesday informally agreed to go ahead and build a shelter specifically for St. Mary’s County.
“I’m about no-kill, and one in St. Mary’s County,” Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) said.
“I agree,” Commission President Randy Guy (R) said.
“The building is a drop in the bucket,” Commissioner Tom Jarboe (R) said. The real costs are “going to be staffing,” he said.
“I support St. Mary’s County getting its own animal shelter, however, we need to better understand what that operational cost is,” Jarboe said. “The building is a no-brainer. That’s easy. It’s staffing that’s going to be a challenge.”
“It’s the operational side that I’m concerned with,” Commissioner John O’Connor (R) said, adding that he wants to wait until the next county budget cycle begins in the winter.
More information from county staff was requested about the potential operating costs of a shelter for St. Mary’s County alone.
A consultant from Rauhaus Freedenfeld and Associates suggested three possible sites in St. Mary’s for a new animal shelter — on 6 acres owned by the St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League, known as SMAWL, in Loveville; at a 96-acre former Superfund site in Hollywood; and at a 75acre site already owned by St. Mary’s County government off FDR Boulevard in California.
“These are only sites discussed among the stakeholders and do not reflect a comprehensive review of all possible options that would be considered if the commissioners approved the project to build a stand alone St. Mary’s County shelter,” Kelly said on Thursday.
The consultant also said if St. Mary’s government chooses to have a nonprofit organization operate or partially operate the shelter “the more obvious choice … is SMAWL.”
In 2016, the Tri-County Animal Shelter took in 2,947 dogs and 4,402 cats from Southern Maryland. Of those dogs, 366 were euthanized and of the cats, 2,119 were put down. The live-release rates for dogs was about 77 percent and for cats was 46 percent, the consultant said.
The three Southern Maryland counties entered into an agreement for a joint animal shelter in 1960. The $50,000 facility opened in Hughesville in September 1961, managed by the Southern Maryland Humane Society.
That partnership only lasted until 1963, when the three Southern Maryland counties canceled their agreement with the humane society.
The St. Mary’s County commissioners: Todd Morgan (R), seated at left, President Randy Guy (R), seated at right, Tom Jarboe (R), left, John O’Connor (R) and Mike Hewitt (R).