MIDDLEBURY — After three months of feral animals running wild in Middlebury’s town limits, the council reluctantly agreed Monday evening to sign a yearly contract with the Elkhart County Humane Society.
The contract renews annually in March, Humane Society executive director Rob LaRoy said prior to the meeting, and this year, Middlebury’s town council decided not to renew it, citing the monetary obligation of the contract.
“We are arguing about equal cost,” councilman Gary O’Dell said to representatives of nonprofit groups who attended the meeting to question why they had not yet signed the contract.
Gail Monroe of CatSnip Etc. told council members that regardless of their participation in the program, the need for the funds doesn’t disappear.
“There are a lot of groups that are affected when you don’t have the contract. We are supported by the Humane Society,” she told them. “When you did what you did this year, it dramatically affected the nonprofits. We drowned.”
Any organization that collects an animal is asked for the address or area it came from prior to treatment by the Humane Society. While several veterinary clinics offer discounted rates to the nonprofits caring for homeless animals, Monroe said the Humane Society generally offers the best cost as well as the most care to the animals, but since Middlebury hasn’t been a part of the contract for the past few months, the group has had to seek out other service providers.
“We have to pay for that all out of our pocket, because we can’t bring them to the Humane Society,” Monroe said.
O’Dell expressed concerns that the taxpayer money used to pay for the assistance offered by the Humane Society might not be an effective use of the funds. This year’s original contract was for $5,400, but it was decreased to a six-month contract to finish out this year.
Due to the lack of contract, LaRoy said, Middlebury residents who called in with animal concerns have been redirected to council members or town administrators.
Local trap-neuter-return groups like CatSnip Etc. and DogTown Resort have been inundated in recent months, representatives said. Monroe recalled gathering an eight-cat colony at Hardings and two litters of kittens near Dairy Queen recently.
Middlebury was the only town that did not sign an interlocal agreement this year — aside from Nappanee, which uses the Animal Welfare League of Kosciusko County due to its proximity.
LaRoy said Middlebury’s fees have not been raised much since 2002, despite the fact that other municipalities have seen an increase of roughly 20 percent since that time.
The interlocal agreement is actually made with the county itself, which then divies up the cost based on the number of animals that have needed service by the shelter in each jurisdiction in previous years.
The Humane Society receives roughly 50 animals every year from within Middlebury town limits, and costs for care are roughly $185 per animal, depending on the services needed.
“Honestly our actual cost to serve their community was about $10,000 per year,” LaRoy said.
A community’s contract with the Humane Society offers services including picking up strays, domestic animals, aggressive, sick, neglected or injured animals. It pays for quarantine for any kind of bite or injury, rabies vaccinations, contagious disease and alterations.
“We are required to provide medical care for any animal in our care,” LaRoy said. “The main thing is we want to make sure that animals are cared for in our community and that the public is safe, and we are the best option to provide that. We have been doing it for 80 years and it’s something we do pretty well.”