Humane Society weighing its options

All plans being looked at involve continuing to work with Clark County

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The Humane Society for Southwest Washington is still weighing its options for responding to Clark County commissioners’ counterproposal of a one-year contract for animal shelter services.

A decision on what the nonprofit will tell the county will likely be reached early next week, said Stacey Graham, president and executive director of the Humane Society’s local chapter.

Graham also said all options currently being considered involve the group continuing to work with the county.

“I would say the Humane Society board of directors is very committed to the animals, and with working with the county toward a resolution,” Graham said.

The contract, which is for housing stray and runaway animals picked up in the county, has been unresolved for nearly a month.

The county is legally required to house stray animals it picks up. The law requires that animals be kept for three days or, if they are properly licensed, for five days. Since the county doesn’t have an animal shelter of its own, it contracts for service with the Humane Society.

The Humane Society’s request brings the amount the county pays to house a stray animal from $120 per animal for three to five days to $132.50 per animal in 2013, and to $145 per animal in 2014. In 2012, the county paid the Humane Society $265,000.

Humane Society representatives say they’re asking for the increase because they’ve put off requesting them in the past. Now, with the cost of doing business on the rise, they say the county needs to pay its fair share. Graham said the actual cost to keep an animal is $170 over the mandatory holding period, and the goal is to get the county to pay closer to the true cost of providing the service.

That original, two-year contract offer was balked at two weeks ago when Commissioner David Madore said he wanted to see some more information on the nonprofit’s salaries. At that time, Commissioners Tom Mielke and Steve Stuart approved a one-year contract as a compromise.

But that is technically a counteroffer, and requires the Humane Society to respond.

Last week, it appeared the two-year contract might be approved when Madore said he had seen the salaries and believed they were appropriate.

But on Tuesday, Madore said he’d gained more insight into the issue and was now hesitant to move forward without additional information.

“In making decisions, one of the good practices is that you never go back and rethink a decision,” Madore said on Tuesday. “The only exception is if you have new information that is enough to pass a threshold that says, “Ya know, we ought to take another look at that.'”

That new information, Madore said, included comparable salaries from other Humane Society chapters.

Madore did say he would go along with his fellow commissioners on a two-year contract if the vote would be unanimous, but he was joined in his concerns by Mielke, who said he, too, would like to further research a long-term contract. Mielke said on Tuesday that the increase in payments the local Humane Society is requesting for 2014 has him “feeling uncomfortable” with a two-year contract.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov ; erik.hidle@columbian.com.