County leans to­ward its own an­i­mal shel­ter

Pos­si­ble sites scouted; ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion on op­er­a­tions needed

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JA­SON BAB­COCK jbab­cock@somd­

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).

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