Governments and Private Animal Control Contractors
The National Animal Control Association does not maintain a list of cities operating animal control under private contractors. Little information is available in regards to this topic.
Many agencies have asked the National Animal Control Association to assess the problems associated with allowing a private contractor to offer Animal Control-related services to its citizens.
The following excerpt is taken from the International City Manager Association’s Management Information Report on Local Animal Control Management, volume 25, number 9, September 1993:
“The public administrators and elected officials of today are well versed in such terms as user fees, management information services, and survey research. And concepts like these apply to animal care and control programs as much as they do to other government programs.
Privatization is another popular concept for local government managers, especially as they work to improve government efficiency and effectiveness. In the field of animal control, however, it has becomeproblematic for some governments.
Many counties and some cities privatize their animal control operations by contracting out those services to a local, usually nonprofit, humane organization. Contractual arrangements vary from locality to locality. Most often, however, the humane society is reimbursed by the government to provide basic animal control services, including animal pickup and sheltering. Other humane society services, such as education and spay/neuter promotion, may or may not be publicly funded.
Although many excellent animal control programs have long been privatized, problems have sometimes occurred when governments have failed to provide adequate funding for animal care and control services and relied on the local humane society to carry the load. Overburdened local humane societies have been forced to curb their most essential services - including educational programs and spay/neuter assistance programs - or shut down entirely. When this happens, local governments must make last-minute funding appropriations or, worse, attempt to handle animal control using untrained staff and a makeshift facility.
Cities and counties that contract out animal care and control services must recognize that animal control remains a governmental service, and they must adequately fund and carefully monitor contracting entities. Local governments should also consider handling animal care and control services themselves. “Cities and counties are finding out that they can do it themselves and do it right,” says Pam Burney, environmental health director for North Richland Hills, Texas, and past president of the National Animal Control Association.
Humane groups and animal control commissions are excellent resources for governments that want to build proper facilities; train staff in humane, professional animal handling and care procedures; and run effective, efficient operations that reduce animal-related problems. There are numerous examples of excellent animal care and control programs run by public animal control departments, just as there are many excellent programs run by private organizations. What all have in common is adequate funding.”
When using private organizations to provide animal control services, consider these points:
- How much liability insurance does your contractor carry? Keep in mind that most act as an “agent” for the governmental entity, and thus you are still legally responsible for actions of the contractor.
- What enforcement powers have you granted to your contractor? Is your contractor aggressive at enforcing your laws?
- What type of audit procedures are you allowed to place upon your contractor to keep track of the taxpayer’s money?
- Does your contractor offer minimum and continuing training standards for the entire contracting staff?
- Does your contractor provide adequate sheltering facilities for the care and housing of impounded or surrendered animals?
- Does your contractor maintain and provide proper equipment and vehicles to ensure animal and human safety?
- Does your contractor promote a positive image within the community?
- Does your contractor meet or exceed the requirements to qualify for the contract?
- Under current state statutes, does your contractor qualify for other types of funding?
- Now ask yourself one very important question: Does your contractor meet or exceed the same level of services you would expect from your own operation? (End of excerpt)
The question of whether or not it is advisable for a humane organization to contract with city and/or county government to do animal control work is open for debate. Many humane organizations perform contract animal control work which runs the gamut from kenneling for the city, to complete animal control work for an entire county.
Most humane organizations have a real struggle during their formative stages to raise sufficient funds to enable them to function effectively. One of the first desires is generally to own and operate an animal shelter. Such a project is costly to begin with and requires a continuous income to offset operational costs. Several humane organizations have turned to contracting with municipal government as a means of assuring such an income. There are several points justifying this course of action:
- Often a humane organization could not exist without some contractual income.
- A humane organization that operates a shelter can hardly avoid doing some, often a great deal, of animal control work anyway. So why not contract, do it all and receive payment?
- Many humane organizations have come into being simply because “pound” conditions in their area were intolerable. These organizations often have no choice but to take over the enforcement of animal ordinances.
In spite of these arguments in favor of contracting, there are also weighty arguments against this practice:
- The image of the nonprofit charitable agency supported by contributors may be seriously injured when the public realizes such an agency receives tax money. It may be quite true that the tax money received is insufficient to cover the costs of the activities engaged by the humane organization. However, many taxpayers will never believe this.
- Unquestionably, the “pound” image is not that for which a humane agency strives. There is no doubt that the public has prejudiced ideas regarding animal pounds. Contracting humane organizations must therefore continually stress the humane aspects of their work in order to project a favorable image.
- Law enforcement officers do not enjoy the praise and love of the general public. Operating a “pound” involves enforcing the animal ordinances. In many people’s minds, that places the organization in a position of being “against” the animal. The role of the humane agency tries to assume is one of education, prosecuting only in cases of cruelty or flagrant neglect. Enforcing a “leash law” may not seem to the public to fall into these categories.
Typically, there are three common variations to an Animal Control contract:
- The Contractor will assume all of the Animal Control-related duties.
- The Contractor will assume all of the Animal Control-related duties, except the licensing program.
- The Contractor will assume animal sheltering duties but leave any of the Animal Control-related responsibilities with government.