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County Shops For Animal Control

By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY — December 4, 2007 — The county’s doing its own form of holiday shopping this month.
The contract for animal control services with the Town of Liberty is coming to an end, according to County Manager David Fanslau.
Fanslau says Town Attorney Ken Klein advised Liberty against proceeding with an intermunicipal agreement because it provided more to the county than services provided to town residents.
According to Liberty Supervisor Frank DeMayo – that’s not quite right.
“Without a written contract, we’ve been assisting them for the past year,” DeMayo said. “We’ve been helping out – when we can – for dog control, strictly dog control.
“It’s similar to the reciprocal agreements we have with the Town of Thompson and Town of Rockland.”
There was no contract, DeMayo said, because the one sent over by the county didn’t pass muster with Klein.
“They sent us a contract that was absolutely horrible,” DeMayo explained. “It absolved the county of any responsibility.”
DeMayo could have rewritten it, but he’s a lame duck.
His plans to sit down with the county and Town Dog Control Officer Joanne Gerow in the new year are moot – John Schmidt will be taking over as supervisor on Jan. 1.
That means a new agency will have the chance to step in to care for dogs and cats left homeless because of action by the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, the county’s public health services, probation department or the department of family services.
A request for proposals (RFP) published as a Public Notice in area newspapers earlier this year failed to produce results.
But Fanslau said the Council of Governments meeting held earlier this month at the government center drew a number of folks with animal control interests – and many said they’d never seen the RFP.
With that in mind, Fanslau has directed the county’s purchasing office to reissue the RFP, asking newspaper readers once again to weigh in with their plans to serve the county.
Gerow took the helm of county animal control late last year when an exorbitant bill from the Sullivan County SPCA put the county on the look-out for a cheaper alternative.
With no contract in place, the shelter had drafted a $17,000 bill for services rendered – prompting questions from the county on many of the line items listed.
A dog lover, DeMayo offered a solution – an intermunicipal agreement like those already in place with area towns.
He suggested the county contract with the town at much lower rates than those charged by the SPCA – rates that amounted to a $7,000 bill handed over on the day of the Council of Governments meeting.
“We gave them a real discounted rate,” DeMayo explained.
When dogs were kept in the Liberty kennel for a lengthy period of time, the town even dropped its rates – saving the county as much as $300 at a clip, he noted.
Fanslau confirmed there have been no problems with Liberty – in fact the town got praise from the county in October for a bill in line with expectations.
“We originally thought we had a solution with the Town of Liberty,” Fanslau said.
Whatever the reason for the falter in the Liberty agreement, the county is back at square one.
A year ago, Fanslau was considering putting animal control out to a competitive bidding process.
Essentially, that’s what the RFPs are for.
“The county really has limited needs,” Fanslau said. “The towns are only, by state law, required to provide for dog control.
“State law does not require the county to provide animal control.”
The state does call for the county to ensure animals are cared for in cases where the county is responsible for an absentee owner – when the owner is arrested or a family is split up by social services for example.
Sullivan County Public Health also calls on animal control in rabies cases – a dog without a valid rabies certificate might have to be held in quarantine for a period after human contact.
Cases like the Gloria Smith animal abandonment issue still under investigation in the Town of Cochecton are rare, Fanslau said, but the county had to have a means in place to care for her 82 cats.
Because the Town of Liberty does not have a facility for cats, the felines ended up at Gerow’s own home – a new contract was drawn up between her and the county.
The cats were the county’s responsibility because Smith was being charged by the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and prosecuted by the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office.
Gerow said she’s considering throwing her own name into the ring for the county’s new animal control provider.
Beyond her duties as dog control officer for Liberty, she pursued schooling to become a peace officer in the town – which gives her the ability to do animal cruelty investigations.
She’s also developed a good working relationship with the Sheriff’s Office in the past year.
“There was never one call where I wasn’t on call immediately,” Gerow said. “I have a 100 percent record.”
In the Smith case, Gerow surmised she saved the county as much as $1,500 in surrender fees alone by adopting out so many cats.
“Really, the most important thing to me is that the county has a resource that’s fair and reasonable,” she said.
Fanslau said proposals are being accepted – from anyone.
If the SPCA, which has worked hard to create a new image in the past year, wants to be considered, it will be.
But, he said, there will be limited parameters to any contract – no more open-ended agreements.

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