County Drops SPCA, Liberty Dog Control Takes Over
By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO November 7, 2006 Chances are, the county won’t be needing the Sullivan County SPCA much longer.
After battling over a nearly $17,000 bill for services rendered by the non-profit for animal control, the county has dropped the SPCA entirely.
A draft of an intermunicipal agreement is now working its way through the legislature which will give the job to the Town of Liberty’s dog control department.
Compared to the fees charged by the SPCA which County Manager David Fanslau said were both high and unsubstantiated, the town will be charging fees that are less than half.
A breakdown provided Friday by the SPCA for its $180 pick-up fee said the per trip charge includes $60 for two employees (based on a two-hour minimum for each call), $30 for one employee called in to cover the shelter, $50 for vehicle expenses and $40 to cover insurance liability.
At the end of the letter, signed simply “The Board of Directors,” the SPCA said “there is no other information we can provide, an (sic) we feel the county does not want to pay us any way (sic).”
By comparison, Liberty will be charging the county $75 per call with a mileage reimbursement rate of $.425 per mile.
The rate for continued care has also been predetermined, with boarding fees for dogs at $15 per day with a monthly fee of $300, cats at $8 per day with a monthly fee of $200, and horses at $15 per day with a monthly fee of $300.
According to the draft agreement, boarding for other animals will be provided at “reasonable/customary rates as needed.”
All charges for veterinary care or final disposition will be the sole responsibility of the county and will require the approval of a designated county official prior to any action being taken.
Town of Liberty Supervisor Frank DeMayo, a self-described animal lover, said he’s already looking into expansion of the town’s shelter to accommodate a greater number of animals.
If funding can be found, he said the current facility of eight dog runs could be torn down and rebuilt or renovated.
“The facility needs some updating,” DeMayo said. “I don’t know when it was built, but just age and all of that is getting to it.”
The current location is ideal for an updated shelter, he continued, in part because it’s located off the main thoroughfare on property already owned by the town.
And it’s already fenced in, DeMayo said, a cost-saving factor.
He said there’s nothing on the table at the moment, although Gerow has been asked to come to the town with some sort of plan for a shelter so DeMayo can look into the cost of such a project.
The building would only occur if funding could be found, he said, and if the town board supported the concept.
But if a new shelter could be built, DeMayo said it would put Liberty in a unique position to provide services to other municipalities, including the county.
“The one thing we want to be sure from the county perspective too is that a couple of years from now someone isn’t going to flip the switch on this because they don’t agree,” DeMayo said.
The county’s agreement is subject to review this week by the legislature’s public safety committee and a final vote by the full legislature next week.
DeMayo said there’s the possibility the town will serve the county not only through the end of the year but into 2007.
Liberty’s central location makes it ideal for animal control services, he said.
The town already contracts with other towns to fill in for dog control officers who are out of the area, using the kennel near Hanofee Park to house dogs from the Town of Rockland.
If the draft is approved by the legislature, Liberty Dog Control Officer Joanne Gerow would then be called in by the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department and the county’s probation department for all animal control needs.
The SPCA has already informed the county that as of Dec. 7 it will no longer respond to county generated calls.
Although they said they will continue to investigate animal cruelty calls in the county, the SPCA board said it lacks manpower and has instructed the shelter manager to turn calls over to the Sheriff’s Department if the facility cannot handle the load.
Undersheriff Eric Chaboty said the Sheriff’s Department does and will continue to investigate acts of animal cruelty regardless of the SPCA’s actions or inaction.
If the animals have to be housed somewhere, he said they will then be turned over to the shelter in the town where the animals were discovered or to Gerow in Liberty.
The county will continue to review the bill from the SPCA despite the board’s assertion that “the county doesn’t want to pay us any way (sic).”
But Fanslau said they will not pay the more than $10,000 generated by a case in the Town of Fallsburg.
Ironically, Gerow said animal control law allows for any agency answering an animal cruelty call to require the pet owners put up a bond to cover the cost of care for their animals.
If the bond cannot be secured, she said the law states the animals are automatically forfeited and could be placed up for adoption.
In the case of the animals taken from the Woodbourne home, the SPCA could have avoided the bill presented to the county by requiring that bond, she said.
Fanslau has directed County Attorney Sam Yasgur to contact the state to determine whether the Sullivan County SPCA is in violation of its charter for its actions, and the Sullivan Count Sheriff’s Department is continuing its investigation into allegations of impropriety.
As for the SPCA, the board of directors said in a letter to Undersheriff Eric Chaboty that it is willing to work with the county. “The SCSPCA and the Sheriff’s Department has (sic) had a long history in a combined battle against animal cruelty in the county,” the letter stated. “We hope to continue a good working relationship with the county.”