If the Erath County Humane Society can’t reach an agreement with the city of Stephenville by Sept. 20, the facility could close its doors, according to Executive Director Diane McCoy and board president Matt Harpole.
McCoy and Harpole came to the E-T Tuesday with a statement about the dire situation facing the animal shelter.
“The humane society is a private non-profit organization that entered into a 25-year operating contract with the city in 1992 to provide care and shelter to animals seized by animal control officers,” McCoy said in a written statement. “We have been providing this service for the past 25 years on property owned by the city at 891 East Road. The current operating contract is set to expire Sept. 20, and despite negotiations with the city since January, we have been unable to reach an agreement for renewal.”
Harpole said if an agreement is not reached, the facility will close its doors and move to a new location, caring only for animals that come from the county, and the city will assume operations and return to the status of a kill shelter.
Funding and more space are the key issues holding up negotiations.
According to the humane society, the city has increased funding of the facility only once during the past 25 years.
“We receive an annual funding of $17,000 to provide services seven days a week, 365 days a year,” McCoy said. “We have asked the city to increase our funding to $36,000 annually to continue providing our service.”
She also said the current facility is too small and rundown to care for the animals.
“We flooded with just the little bit of rain we have gotten this week,” she said. “In the past 19 months we have taken in 1,495 animals just from animal services officers and citizens of Stephenville alone, which is approximately 70% of our intake.”
The shelter uses social media, fosters and volunteers to place animals in homes and euthanize only when necessary.
“Our adoption rates average 49% and euthanasia rates average 9%,” McCoy said.
Harpole and McCoy will make a final attempt to reach an agreement with the city at the next city council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
“We are asking for the public’s support,” Harpole said. “We ask that you come to the council meeting and voice your support or contact a member of the city council.”
City Administrator Allen Barnes said the city will continue working with the shelter to find a solution.
“The city and ECHS have been negotiating in good faith to develop a new contract for the animal shelter. The city has agreed to some of the requests presented by ECHS and has countered others,” Barnes said. “In a meeting two weeks ago Matt Harpole asked to discuss the situation with the council and arrangements were made for a workshop to take place on August 31. He advised at the meeting a couple of weeks ago that they would take the counter offers back to their board and would be back in touch with us. To my knowledge ECHS has not responded to the city’s latest offers.”