City officials are hoping a partnership with Cuyahoga County for animal control will take the bite out of concerns about the decision earlier this month to lay off the municipal animal control officer.
Mayor Debbie Sutherland said Friday the city is entering an agreement with the county to have it’s animal control staff handle dog problems in the city. She outlined the plan for attendees at the City Council meeting Monday, adding that she also is considering a similar agreement for cats and other animals, but has not finalized anything yet. The new deal became necessary after city council members told the administration that laying off the municipal animal control officer was one of the budget-cutting measures it wanted implemented. The move has drawn fire from some residents at the last two council meetings after word of the decision to cut the position got out.
Sutherland said the move to county services will have financial pluses.
“It doesn’t cost us anything,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that we have to lose a long-time employee, but we won’t have to pay for this service.”
Sutherland said she was able to work on the agreement with Bonnie Teeuwen, county director of Public Works.
“Those services are available to all cities, and we are going to utilize them,” Sutherland said.
Teeuwen said Tuesday the $5 dog license fee pays for county services throughout the county. She said county officials are intent on working with the different cities where it can for services throughout the county.
“It’s another part of regional services in the county and an opportunity for us to work with the city,” Teeuwen said.
Teeuwen and Sutherland said the county will send workers Monday through Friday to pickup dogs put in the city kennel. Both said there will be county dog wardens who will respond to calls within the city, adding that the county health department will deal with dog bites or other health problems caused by animals. Sutherland said the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, located in Bay Village, also will field questions about wild animals.
When residents raised concerns about where to direct money and donations for a city animal shelter or kennel, or whether there would still be one, Sutherland emphasized that the city will have facilities for animals, even though it’s cutting the animal control officer’s position.
‘That’s been a misconception by some about this,” she said. “We will have a kennel where animals can be taken; we’re not getting rid of that.”
Municipal officials began to look for a new kennel site several weeks ago because there will be construction work going on the site of collapsed municipal salt barn which is located just a few feet away from the old kennel site.
Cuyahoga County’s euthanization or kill policy for dogs was also raised by resident Nancy Brown, who cited statistics about the number of animals under county control who were put down because of that policy.
Sutherland also said she did give city council options when it decided to cut the animal control job.
“We put out a spreadsheet with different options and moves showing what could be done, and council opted for laying off the animal control officer,” she said. “I personally would have preferred taking funds for the position out of the reserve fund, but council chose not to do that.”
How much of the more than $10 million remaining reserve fund to spend and what to utilize it for has been a hot topic between the administration, council and residents during the last several years of tight municipal budgets. Sutherland’s administration has had council reject several proposals for using more of the fund to combat shrinking revenues in other areas,
Council President Brian Cruse told West Life before Monday’s meeting that cutting the animal control officer position was a tough call.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” he said. “If we make an exception for that position, do we do it for the next one when we have another budget issue? Where do we draw the line? At some point, we have to use measures which force us to make decisions like this one. At least we have something from the county which will allow us to still deal with animal control issues.”