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Posted on Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

Possible outcome if Humane Society talks fail: More dogs euthanized and end of services for stray cats

By Ryan J. Stanton

With a little more than two weeks to go before the county's contract with the Humane Society of Huron Valley expires — and with no deal in place for a continuation of services — what happens to stray cats and dogs in Washtenaw County after Jan. 1?

That remains undetermined.

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But if a deal isn't reached by the end of this month, the county will be forced to find another way to meet its animal control mandates on an interim basis.

And that appears to mean the county no longer would provide shelter and veterinary services for stray cats, while dogs could be euthanized in four to seven days.

County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, said he met with Humane Society leaders on Tuesday.

"It was, from my perspective, extraordinarily productive," he said. "We didn't come to any long-term solutions or anything like that. We've still got a long way to go. But this was really the first formal opportunity to sit down and talk about how each of us perceives the challenge."

Smith said it was decided that County Administrator Verna McDaniel and Humane Society Executive Director Tanya Hilgendorf, who could not be reached for comment, are going to negotiate a one-month extension of the contract that will allow the two sides to continue negotiations into January without a disruption of services.

"I'm sincerely hopeful that we're going to come to some form of long-term arrangement with the humane society," Smith said.

Mike Walsh, president of HSHV's board of directors, said he's more optimistic now than he was before Tuesday's meeting.

"It's the first time we really met as far as a negotiating team," he said. "We're working out trying to get at least January covered while we continue to negotiate."

But with half the money previously budgeted for shelter and care services gone from the county's budget, it appears the county still is planning to cut back. obtained copies of several emails recently sent out from county officials to residents and others. They indicate the county has been in talks with the Michigan Humane Society in Westland over providing interim care and shelter services if needed.


Verna McDaniel

"We have not signed a deal with Michigan Humane Society in Westland at this time," McDaniel wrote in an email on Monday. "Should we need interim service providers, we will talk with others as well as Westland."

In another email, McDaniel said "we love our animals" and called the Humane Society issue "one of the toughest issues we have dealt with in a long time."

For many years, the county has contracted with HSHV to provide a sheltering facility for dogs and other animals to meet state mandates for animal control.

While the county has been pleased with HSHV's past services, the contract never has been competitively bid out, and the county board recently directed staff to do that following stalled negotiations on a new contract.

HSHV's contract with the county — worth $500,000 annually — ends on Dec. 31. The county wanted to cut the contract amount to $250,000 as part of budget cuts for 2012, but the agency's leaders balked at that offer, and now the county is considering other options.

The contract had been worth $200,000 per year until 2006, when HSHV and county officials met to work out a deal to increase funding to cover more of the costs of services.

HSHV advocates argue the $500,000 a year the county has provided the agency for animal control services already doesn't come close to covering what's mandated under state law, and that those mandates are met thanks to hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from HSHV supporters who subsidize the costs every year.

Council officials said this week they're still hoping the two sides can reach a compromise on those areas where they disagree.

"Should the deal fail, we will work with our sheriff to explore an interim plan with several kennels and Westland, as well," McDaniel said.

The county's request for proposals includes a minimum scope of work for animal control services that the county believes are mandated by state law. The county is hoping HSHV can continue to provide those services, but it's open to other options.

According to the RFP, the selected bidder must be licensed or willing to become licensed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to operate an animal shelter.

The RFP states the county is looking for a contractor to provide a shelter to hold stray and unlicensed dogs for the statutory holding period of four days for those with indication of ownership and seven days for those with no indication of ownership.

While in the contractor's care, the dogs must receive food, water, exercise and veterinary care. The RFP states the county is not requiring contractors to hold stray cats, birds or any other animals, and will not generally pay for such animals if they are sheltered.

Animal rights advocates throughout the county have reacted angrily to the county's decision, arguing it will lead to the euthanizing of many dogs and leave cats out in the cold.

HSHV has a save rate of more than 80 percent, a figure calculated by comparing the number of animals adopted or returned to their owner over the course of one year.

In 2010, stray animals that HSHV says the county is required to care for made up more than 4,500 of the 6,700 animals housed at the facility. About 500 animal cruelty cases are handled by the HVHS annually at no cost to the county, according to previous reports.


Rob Turner

Commissioner Rob Turner, R-Chelsea, sent out an email saying the scope of service that the county can afford at this time is concerning to him.

"With the fact that mine is a family with two cats, one of which we adopted two weeks ago from the HSHV, it also concerns me that we are having to drop the coverage of stray cats," Turner said. "But it is not in our mandate .... With better economic times, this is a service I will fight to have it restored."

Turner's email states the county is prepared to work with the Westland shelter for a 30- to 60-day basis until the county can come up with a long-term agreement.

The RFP states the selected contractor only will be required to accept stray and unlicensed dogs from county residents with proof of residency and law enforcement agencies located within the county. Dogs that are voluntarily surrendered by their owners are not considered stray dogs and, as such, will not come under the county’s responsibility, the RFP states.

"It is my hope that HSHV will reply to the RFP and offer to sell us services at a unit price that we can afford within our budget," Commissioner Barbara Levin Bergman, D-Ann Arbor, wrote in an email that also referenced the likelihood of interim services with the Westland facility.

It's also been rumored that the county is in talks with another facility west of Washtenaw County that could handle dogs from the western side of the county.

Multiple commissioners have said they wish HSHV would show more willingness to work with a reduced contract amount instead of forcing the county to look elsewhere.


Human Society of Huron Valley supporters are circulating this chart showing what they believe to be the cost of state mandated animal control services compared to what the county provides.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


Go Blue

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 5:42 a.m.

Dear Board of Commissioners: Please do not botch this opportunity to do the right thing and honor what your constituents want. Sit down with the HSHV now and stop this grandstanding and get this issue settled. We voted you in to represent us, the paying public, and you are not doing the job we hired, yes HIRED, you do to. You no longer represent our wishes and now feel we must accept your wishes. Its starts at the top, meaning decreases in those lovely salaries, decreases and terminations of all those health, medical, dental, vision benefits you "earn." Termination of all those other perks you get at OUR expense. We don't get them, nor should you. If the finances are as bleak and grim as indicated, and you are cutting and slashing, then stand in line because it is your turn to pay the price as well. Otherwise, why should any entity suffer a decrease in funding if you do not. And how on earth can wage increases even be brought to the table? Something is wrong with this picture, DRASTICALLY wrong.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 2:42 a.m.

HSHV does more than take in animals. There's a wonderful capture and release program that HSHV does but I'm not sure how it's funded or how it works. Ferals are spayed/neutered and released, except those who might be adoptable. So, HSHV provides a good program to keep down the feral cat population. They did a study a couple years ago (maybe with another research group) which showed the river and other waterways are contaminated where there are large feral populations of cats. It's a shame that whether they must abide-due to low funding or lack of a contract w/county-or whether the county contracts out taking in stray dogs to another facility-that dogs will be killed in 4-7 days and cats won't be helped at all. Washtenaw County will become like the Michigan Humane Society in Westland-a kill shelter. Westland's KILL rate is 70% in 2010 while HSHV had an 80% LIVING rate. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Robert Stone

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 10:44 p.m.

As someone who volunteers at HSHV and therefore donates to make up for any failure by the county to cover the services there, I can't help but feel that the county is just trying to play a game of &quot;chicken&quot; in an effort to take advantage of donors and volunteers, like me, by forcing them to privately pay for legally mandated county services. Basically they seem to be betting that donors will feel compelled to compensate with private funds and won't be willing to say &quot;no&quot; because the issue is life-and-death for animals. If they want to try to force people to pay for stuff with private donations, pick something else like public recreation that isn't a life-and-death issue. I have no problem with private donors supplying certain things instead of the county, but some things are clearly the responsibility of the county and can't be left to chance. So what's next? Are they going to cut the police/fire budget in half and expect that to be made up with private donations while starting a county public art program? It seems like they don't understand the difference between required public services that are supposed to be guaranteed with public funds and optional things that can be left up to private donors if sufficient people are actually interested enough to donate. Furthermore, what's the chance that there isn't something of a lower, non-essential, priority that couldn't be cut? My guess is that cutting those things would probably require laying off UNION employees which might be more difficult than cutting funds to contractors. As though public employee unions aren't a conflict of interests in the first place, it's ridiculous when non-essential employees are also allowed to be part of the union. If nothing else, county employee unionization should be available only to police/firefighers/etc and similar essential employees.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 5:12 a.m.

The county does not fund fire protection, nor does it pay for roads.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

And yet, still no evidence to support your claim that unions have any effect on this Humane Society business.

Robert Stone

Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 12:08 a.m.

It would solve this and a lot of other problems. The vast majority of workers are not in a union. Most public contract employees are NOT in a union (certainly not the HSHV staff) yet are indirectly employed by the county. Private employee unions don't get to elect CEOs that they negotiate with, and they can't spend campaign money to help get the person they want elected as CEO of Ford or whatever. Public unions CAN elect the people they negotiate with, then as if that weren't enough, apply even MORE pressure on top of that by threatening to strike, etc. You also see them endorse whoever will do what the union wants even if the person is disastrous for everyone else. See &quot;Firefighter's union endorses Lesko&quot;. County workers aren't having their &quot;rights&quot; protected, they're gaining special undeserved *privileges* way beyond what anyone else has, beyond what even private union members have, that cause a major conflict of interests and are harmful to the public in general. The HSHV thing is just one example of the consequences. If the county owned and ran the shelter you can bet something else would get cut and it would end up costing a LOT more. And no, these aren't &quot;GOP talking points.&quot; Mayor Heiftje actually brought up the conflict of interests when the firefighter's union endorsed Lesko. I don't remember him being part of the GOP, or there even being any GOP talking points back then. Public employee unions are fine if they don't have collective bargaining privileges (that's privilege, not some right like voting rights), can't strike, can't force employees to join the union, and simply collect dues from those who want to join and spend them on political advocacy to get favorable officials elected. I fail to see how they deserve more &quot;rights&quot; than everyone else, especially contract employees. Not everything that's called a &quot;union&quot; is automatically some sort of advocate for human rights against the big evil corporations, espec

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 10:55 p.m.

Don't blame the unions for this. You are right that the county is probably hoping that people will step up and donate privately. But forcing government workers to work without the same legal protections as other workers, including the right to unionize, wont solve the budget woes behind this decision.

Joe Kidd

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

Two suggestions: 1. HSHV increases its fund raising activities. I think the area's population can make up the $250k drop in county funding until the county can increase funding 2. Put it on the ballot. See if the public will agree to making the HSHV a special district funded by a tax on property. I would like to see the salary/benefit packages HSHV employees receive prior to any approved funding from the county.

Robert Stone

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 10:50 p.m.

So if the police budget gets cut by 50%, should the POLICE simply &quot;increase fund raising activities&quot; to make up for it? The point is that some county services are mandated and must be paid for by the county, not left up to chance. Also, I volunteer at HSHV and have considered applying for a job there, and I can tell you there's no way they are getting overpaid especially not compared to UNION county employees. Not only that, but from my observations they are busy 100% of the time without any time to goof off and very little time for breaks. A very large percentage of the work there is also getting done by volunteers, also known as &quot;people who work for free.&quot;


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 8:14 p.m.

What Dog Lover said. HSHV employees are not county employees. Taxpayers do not pay their salaries. See my response above to Machine--they are definitely not being overpaid for the difficult work they do!

Dog Lover

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 8 p.m.

Hey Joe, I think the point is that the county has a mandated responsibility to provide the services that have been contracted out to HSHV. Otherwise, the county would need to have a county run pound. Luckily, the county does not. This service should be included in the taxes we pay to the county for mandated services. The other point is that HSHV is a contractor, just like Waste Management is for trash services. I have never heard of the county administrator telling Waste Management they will be getting 1/2 of what their previous contract was, but still expected to provide the same great service. Waste Management can always increase fund raising to cover the short fall and please provide all your employee salary/benefit info before we sign a contract. HSHV is a non-profit corporation, so why should they be held to any different requirements than other corporations the county contracts with? While we are at it, SPARK seems to be lagging on their financial information to receive county funds.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 6:45 p.m.

The failure here is on the part of the County Administrator. Isn't her responsibility to submit a budget to the BOC for approval? If the BOC wanted to act in good faith, they should have sent the whole budget back to Ms. McDaniel with better direction. Instead, they approved her budget with lots of county administrative spending, an 8% increase for Ms. McDaniel's top brass and cuts to many other non-profits. But then a holiday miracle happened! Ms. McDaniel found $257,000 to put back into the Coordinated Human Services, which by the way her own department manages. And never missing an opportunity to take credit, Commission Rabhi stated, &quot;Unfortunately, we cut it out of the budget last time, but I'm glad that we could build enough political momentum to bring it back today, before the end of the year, so those organizations can plan on having that money.&quot; I for one am glad the BOC put back the full funding plus more for many of the non-profits. I just don't like they way the BOC &amp; Ms. McDaniel have played this game &amp; yes, it is a game to them and all about them. Lastly, the last sentence of the article is very confusing, &quot;Multiple commissioners have said they wish HSHV would show more willingness to work with a reduced contract amount instead of forcing the county to look elsewhere.&quot; When Conan said, &quot;This was really the first formal opportunity to sit down and talk about how each of us perceives the challenge.&quot; Why are we in the 11th hour and the Chair of the BOC is just now sitting down with HSHV? This whole deal stinks to high heaven and no one is more to blame than the BOC &amp; Ms. McDaniel.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

Can someone please explain to me how a town this educated ever voted in Mad Hatter Barbara Bergman? Despite her declarations of wanting to work with HSHV, it's clear from her behavior that this has become personal for her. Anything she is hearing from the community about the brilliant service HSHV provides is merely the white noise that her political career needs to fall sleep. Pleasant dreams!

Robert Stone

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 10:53 p.m.

How did practically anyone on the city council get voted in? The fact is that most people around here are too wealthy to notice local government causing them any hardships, and thus won't vote or will just keep voting for the same people until there's a problem that affects them. Pretty much any city/county elected official could just ignore all constituents, not respond to their calls/letters/email, and still get reelected.

Rosie Lemons

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 6:27 p.m.

Seems to me that there is no way the county will find anything that comes close to what the Humane Society is now providing at half of the actual cost.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

I agree with Anne Savage and Woman in Ypsi and everyone else in our community who support our award winning humane society (and that includes me). I am also concerned that there will also be less donor support starting in 2012 when Snyder and his robber barons in Lansing who have chosen to tax seniors/retirees and cut charitable deductions from your state taxes. For all of you who thought it was a great idea for people on limited incomes to have their incomes cut or to be able to claim charitable deductions, have you thought about what you thought was a great idea would trickle down? When you cut someone's cash flow, you cut where their cash goes. When a senior who already has to decide between a generic drug or food or electricity, I doubt their choice will be a charitable donation or if so, much less than they could give the year before. I am deeply concerned there will be less coming in to HSHV for the dogs and cats who don't have a voice in elections and Lansing.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:41 p.m.

All I know is that I love the Humane Society and I will remember this come election time. The county is already getting a bargain. Cutting the funding to the Humane Society even by a penny is unacceptable.

Anne Savage

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

What this chart says to me is that the community, that we live in, overwhelmingly supports the great work that the HSHV does and we share their same humane values. The community show their support in donations and in volunteer work, year after year. It is an organization that works. The same people who support the HSHV also vote for the officials that are not able to see the real issue here and in my opinion unwilling to do the hard work but instead sacrifice OUR values and OUR efforts, as a community, to be as humane to animals as we can. We have spoken through our continued support of this organization and it's time for our officials to honor what we want. As for this article, I feel it is basically an ad for a job that can only be filled (at that price) by some heartless person to step up and do the minimum and euthanize the animals that the HSHV would normally do all they can to care for, rehabilitate and then adopt out. For a better view of this issue you must read this, <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:44 p.m.

looking at the chart above you can see how much donors cover of the actual costs it takes to run and maintain the level of service of the HSHV. The amount the county was paying doesn't even cover a third of what is state mandated. Seperately I have to say that the HSHV is a far better facility than Westland. Also I would like to see a chart of Westlands operating costs. Does Westland grade as high or higher than HSHV? if not is that reduced cost worth it? I will say that I think even if the contract is lowered by 20% ($100,000) the HSHV could probably make it up in donations. Time for HSHV to get a booth at the football games or ask to fundraise at some Michigan Hockey games. I'll be sure to make a donation this year :)

Robert Stone

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 10:57 p.m.

People making up for the county cuts with donations is what the county seems to be depending on. Why pay for necessary mandated services if you can take advantage of donors to pay for it? Why not cut police/fire/roads/etc and rely on donations to make up for it? Also, I doubt the chart includes the dollar value of what volunteers contribute in labor. (Basically, take all the volunteer hours, figure out how many $/hr HSHV would have to pay to hire people to do that work if there were no volunteers, and list that as well.)


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

&quot;Multiple commissioners have said they wish HSHV would show more willingness to work with a reduced contract amount instead of forcing the county to look elsewhere.&quot; Of course they have -- it's way easier than doing their jobs. And now they are going to take our taxpayer dollars and send them to another county? Perfect. Say, did Conan Smith ever pay that money back?


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

To echo some good posts at the bottom of the thread that may be lost to view because they are &quot;replies&quot; : THE HSHV IS INDEPENDENT OF OTHER HUMANE SOCIETIES--particularly the Mich Humane soc... so earmark hopefully increased donations specifically to the HSHV. Moderators: i trust my caps won't count as deletable shouting. They are just a legitimate public service announcement.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

I see many, many, many animals losing their lives if an agreement is not reached. I can't begin to voice how disturbed I am about this situation. I think most everyone would agree that $1.44 per year per resident to provide the services the Humane Society of Huron Valley has been providing is not very much. By the way, thank you commissioner Bergman for responding to my email about this situation. I'm being sarcastic. She did not respond and I will remember that come election time. Please don't delete this as a disparaging remark about the commissioner. It is a statement of fact.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

This also points out the need to donate locally... Donate Directly to the Huron Valley Humane Society NOT the national Humane Society. Your local donation goes to our local shelter pet care...Less than 5 percent of your national donation does. That money goes to administrative costs. Donate directly and locally to your nearest shelter, not their national organization body.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Thank you, Halter and other commentators. I had no idea that the Michigan Humane Society had nothing to do with our local one. I probably should have known, but didn't.

Murphy's dad

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

and I'll add that Michigan Humane Society sends out many requests for donation to residents here in Washtenaw County, even though they do not service this area. So not only is MHS working against HSHV by talking with Washtenaw County and agreeing to help them with their limited service, they've also got a history of working against the welfare of animals in Washtenaw County by taking donor dollars out of Washtenaw County to help animals in Wayne and Oakland counties


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

The same holds true for ASPCA shelters, though we don't have one of those locally.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

Good idea, except to clarify, HSUS is not a national organizational umbrella organization. All humane societies are independent of one another. HSUS does not pass on any of the money they receive to local organizations, except for a very small amount that they give to actual animal shelters.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:33 p.m.

We all get the government we deserve; *please* take a moment to contact your Commissioner with your position on this important issue. This morning, I e-mailed the following: Dear Conan -- I live in your district and have been closely following the Board's interactions with the HSHV. I strongly disagree with your and the Board's position vis-a-vis the HSHV and am sending the message that the Board needs to get a deal done to keep the HSHV in place with a reasonable budget, and that doesn't mean a 50% cut. The Board has been the subject of much citizen scrutiny and criticism recently, for many legitimate reasons. This is yet another reason that brings discredit to the current Board. Unlike organizations that operate on bloated budgets and squander taxpayer dollars, the HSHV has been efficiently run for many, many years and provides a valuable service to county tax-payers at relatively low cost, compared to the bloated budgets of some of your line items. As one of your constituents, it is my desire that the Board work more closely and constructively with the HSHV to get a deal done and that you personally further that objective. I, along with many others, will continue to monitor this situation, and I for one *will* remember its resolution when you are up for re-election.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

Just remember: A society is judged by the way it treats its weakest members including stray cats and unwanted dogs. We're really impressive, we've invented disposable consumer goods, disposable pets, and disposable cities (Detroit). Wow, what's next?


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:14 p.m.

These animals shouldn't suffer because of stalled budget talks. The cost of shelter animal care is not 'covered' by the the old contract anyway so attempting to cut those funds or ask for bids that purport to offer these services at lower rates are not workable solutions. Please, Washntenaw County, see the light and conclude these negotiations in a fair and reasonable manner. This is the time of year when lots of charities ask for donations to tide them over the next year. Please think of donating some $$ to the HSHV. A few dollars can go a long way towards ensuring that shelter animals live long enough to get adopted, get spayed or neutered, get fed, get sheltered, and get the medical care many of them need. It is $$ well spent!


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

Ridiculous!! Vote these members out of office. We voters should all be enraged!! If stray cats can't be brought in, then the population of stray cats increases. The commissioners talk about how difficult funding availability is, yet they continue to use all their &quot;perks&quot;... someone tell me how to run for this office and I'll replace one of these so-called representatives!


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

I don't understand why the A2 News is printing this at this time. It is my understanding that the County has already contracted with the Westland Shelter for the month of January. It is also my understanding that the BOC did not meet with HSHV this week. This entire article is based on outdated information, at best, or false statements by the BOC. Not only is compassion for the animals at issue here, but community health. Stray animals, both cats and dogs, breed and become feral. Feral cats form colonies and can cause problems. Feral dogs roam in packs and can become quite aggressive. They come into neighborhoods and raid garbage cans and fight loudly for the food. There is a reason why the State made any law back in 1919. It is a law that is no longer considered appropriate or humane by most counties. Does Washtenaw County really want to lead the State back into the standards of living in 1919? People here have never lived with large numbers of stray animals. That is why they can see it as not being an issue. Someone suggested that the animals be killed on site. On this issue, I would say NIMBY.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

a big step in the right direction, long over due


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:28 p.m.

As a part time HSHV volunteer and full time skeptic ( cynic even!), to fail to renew the current services provided by the only organization i have absolutely nothing snarky to say about would be a damn shame fiscally shortsighted and cruel. Aside from the rise in needlessly euthenized dogs ( and many of those are really nice animals, despite prior abuse and hardship, and adopted at a rate that is higher at HSHV than at almost all such places in the country) the cat issue needs to be addressed too...especially since some cutie pies on this thread feel that they are a trivial issue. Feral cats breeding freely pose a risk to wildlife as well as to those domestic cats allowed to go outside, via transmission of things like feline leukemia and even rabies. The HSHV's &quot;TNR&quot; ( trap, neuter and release) program aims to not only address this issue but places alot of cool kittens up for adoption ( and i've had 3 great pets from comparable programs elsewhere). The per capita cost to taxpayers to renew the HSHV contract at current levels is miniscule, per an earlier post, and is far better 'bang for the buck&quot; than many of the competing agencies. The commissioners who vote against this will pay a price next election.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:59 a.m.

Cut the free healthcare to the Washtenaw County board, starting with Bergman's. And the rest of the frills (cell phones, etc.)


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:33 a.m.

I wish things were a little more transparent in this process. I have heard that HVHS has more salaried employees with higher average salaries than surrounding humane societies and that it charges lower fees. If true, I would like to see how increased fees and a few staff cuts would affect their bottom line. I think they would be able to manage just fine with less money. Trying to hold the line when everyone else is being forced to make cuts makes you look unreasonable.

Robert Stone

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:39 p.m.

How much employees make doesn't actually matter. Does the county care how much the trash service contractors pay the garbage truck drivers? No, the county only cares how much it pays the trash company. The trash company can pay the garbage men a million a year for all it matters as long as the county is paying competitive rates. Similarly you don't care how much the sales clerk at the store is getting paid and you don't need to know. All you care about is the price of the items you're buying. Seriously, imagine going into Meijer, buying something at a half price sale, then complaining that the employees make too much money. Who cares? Normally it would be perfectly reasonable to look around to see who else could provide animal-related services, or trash services, etc, for less money, but the problem is that the county doesn't just want the best deal but they want to cut the level of service that they're buying. It would be similar to if they were to offer the trash collection contractor half as much money and still expect them to pick up both trash AND recycling. And if they didn't accept the deal then they'd just go with some other contractor who will only pick up the trash without any recycling service. In addition, it's also as if they are paying $500,000 a year for both trash and recycling, when everyone else is paying $1,000,000 for trash and recycling. So in addition to people in the community wanting recycling service, they're both ditching the recycling AND turning down the insanely good deal that they're getting on the services. Later they may find themselves totally unable to get this sort of deal, and when people complain about the lack of recycling pickup they might end up having to spend $1,000,000 on it like everyone else. So there are two issues here: cutting the level of service and the cost of the service. It's like a large drink costs $1.00 and a small half-size one costs $.80. They want to lose 50% just to save 20% even if residents want 100%.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

If EVERYONE took a paycut of half their salary, INCLUDING and ESPECIALLY our elected officials, and our budget was still in trouble, then expecting the humane society to do the same would be more reasonable. I don't think they could survive with half their previous budget, but if everyone truly did it they should follow.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

You are confusing separate things. The FEE HVHS charges is $500k. Fees for adoption are not part of that budget. You need to understand what you are talking about before you give an opinion. Saying &quot;you heard&quot; is dishonest, and quite honestly lazy. If you heard something maybe you should spend 10 minutes doing some research. Otherwise you are better off not getting involved in a discussion you know nothing about.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

If the county were providing 100% of the funding to HSHV, then I agree, it would be relevant. But here's more information: the county is currently paying two animal control officers (not affiliated with HSHV) $180K a year. That's more than the five-person cruelty/rescue team at HSHV makes, collectively. According to Tanya Hilgendorf, 70% of the agency's 70 full and part time employees make less than $32,000 a year. According to their financials on their website, they spent $1.9 million in salaries in 2010. Divide that by 70, and you get about $28,500 a year. So tell me again how these folks are overpaid?

Murphy's dad

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

Sorry Machine, I wasn't trying to &quot;argue&quot; with you, and I didn't think I responded to you in a confrontational way, I was just simply adding another point of view. But seriously, you're putting out information that &quot;you heard&quot; without listing any sources. I don't think they have lower adoption rates than other shelters, I've actually seen some lower adoption rates charged in other facilities. With the severe overcrowding that most shelters have increasing fees to adopt would probably result in fewer adoptions, inceasing overcrowding and more euthanizations. Again, I think the issue is more about the county funding HSHV at a level that would provide the same services as the rest of the state. I don't believe that donors should pick up the county's responsibility, you have a different opinion. Sorry I responded, just trying to advance the conversation with a different point of view.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

Number of employees and their salaries is wholly relevant. If you cannot understand why, I would NEVER want you to be my bookkeeper or accountant.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:37 p.m.

First off, HSHV is a private organization, so how are their salaries relevant here? This dispute is about contracted services, and expecting the county to pay a mere 30% of the cost of the services they are obligated to provide. The county has had their animal control services subsidized by private donors to HSHV for years. These proposed cuts are just a case of expecting far too much for far too little. But, if you want a comparison, here you go. Generally private organizations don't publish their salaries, but as a nonprofit, and in the interest of donor accountability, they do publish their top executive's salary. According to the website Charity Navigator, compensation for HSHV's executive director in 2010 was $81,776. By contrast, Michigan Humane Society (an organization with a kill rate almost as high as HSHV's save rate) pays their CEO, Cal Morgan, $184,936 a year.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:26 p.m.

Murphy's dad - you clearly have an agenda since you have cherry picked some of my comments to support your argument while ignoring others. What about increased fees to help with the bottom line? How do they compare with other local humane societies? I asked for more information and you give me doubletalk. I don't object to giving them money to do the job but when the economy is down they need to be willing to make the same sacrifices everybody else is. After all, we are talking about pets not people.

Murphy's dad

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:04 p.m.

Not sure what your source for this is Machine, if this was true then they probably wouldn't need the large number of volunteers that they do for thankless jobs like cleaning out cages and other similar tasks. But this isn't the issue anyway, it's about reimbursing HSHV for services that are funded by taxpayers in every other Michigan county. You may disagree, but I don't feel that HSHV should be forced to spend money out of their budget that they generate by fundraising to fund services that are the county's responsibility. And if you want to compare, have the source of your information check into Michigan Humane Society, the organization mentioned above, and have that source get back to you on the number of staff they have. But I can save you the time, it's many, many more.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:23 a.m.

&quot;&quot;It is my hope that HSHV will reply to the RFP and offer to sell us services at a unit price that we can afford within our budget,&quot; Commissioner Barbara Levin Bergman, D-Ann Arbor, wrote in an email that also referenced the likelihood of interim services with the Westland facility.&quot; Ms. Levin-Bergman, of course, still receiving County paid for health care for her part time elected position. Glad we can afford that.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:20 a.m.

This just shows what a failed leader Conan Smith is and that if he has any plans for higher political office, he should probably kiss that dream goodbye.

Gayle Kiser

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 10:30 a.m.

Please remember this at voting time, I will.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 10:32 p.m.

That is a great idea, jns131.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

I'll be wearing the shirt that says &quot;remember the humane society&quot; not the alamo. Remember what our county officials did. I never forget and yes, I will be making a big statement next November.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 8:45 a.m.

It is our fault that these animals need the shelter. I have donated as much as I am financially able and would be angry to find out that animals would be put to death all over money! Stop paying those in higher positions ungodly amounts in salary when they do nothing. Pay those at the shelter where they are doing good and working hard to save the animals our society has thrown away!


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 7:54 a.m.

Yeah, but it is OK to have a budget for art, it's more important than life. Oh, I for got, it's only 1% of the city budget. These animals are probably better off dead than stuck in a cage anyway. I say 1 week for any animal then give it up to our great creator. Too bad, so sad.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 7:23 a.m.

yeah is that what its saying? because that was not the intent. The city should put their money where it counts rather than something that can wait a year or ten, or until there is enough to go around for life first. That $1.5M could have been donated to the care of life. Besides sacrificing jobs, and lives, for an inanimate object that was stuck in under radar, and was a huge &quot;waist&quot; of cash.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:12 p.m.

The city budget has ZERO to do with the county budget. It would be like saying the State of Michigan has money for fixing a road (a non living thing) but cant take care of animals.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 6:26 a.m.

I question some of the services that HSHV says &quot;must&quot; be covered by the county. Stray Cats? Spay/Neuter surgeries? Feral cats? Those may be good things to do, but I don't think the county is actually required to deal with them.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 11:04 p.m.

free form, I don't know about their procedures now, but the dog we adopted 9 years ago was not sterilized until after the adoption was confirmed, and the receipt we have for the fee we paid includes a charge for the procedure. It wouldn't make sense for them to do surgeries on animals until they are adopted -- some of the animals might not get adopted, and then the surgery is wasted effort. Mr. Stone, it costs less to recycle than it does to dispose of garbage. Your comparison is not apt.

Robert Stone

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:44 p.m.

The city/county/etc might not be required to contract for recycling services either. Howabout they just pay only for trash pickup and throw all the recyclables in the trash bin?

free form

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:21 p.m.

Epengar, I adopted animals from HSHV and I know what adopters pay is an &quot;adoption fee&quot; which varies by animal. This does not mean that you paid for your animal's surgery. The animals are sterilized before they are even placed up for adoption (except very young animals.)


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Thanks for the reply. I suspect a lot of cats are dumped already. When we adopted an animal from the HSHV, we were charged for the cost of neutering it. If adopters pay for sterilization, why do they say the county has to pay for it? I think everyone, even the county commissioners, agree that we should exceed the legal minimum of animal control. The question is by how much. The HSHV claimed that the half million they get doesn't cover their mandated animal control work, but it looks like they are defining the mandate in a way that doesn't hold up to examination.

Murphy's dad

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:39 a.m.

According to the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance all Michigan counties accept stray cats in their shelters, I don't believe it's law, it's just commonly recognized that it must be done. As for spay/neuter, it is required by law that all animals adopted out of state licensed shelters must be &quot;altered&quot;, a nice way to say &quot;fixed&quot;. I'm not sure why feral cats are listed separately on the above chart, possibly because even though all counties take in feral cats, it would not be for adoption since they're not adoptable. Because of that fact there would not be any hold times or spay/neuter requirements applicable. By the way, if I understand correctly the county also doesn't think it's their responsibility to take in dogs surrendered by the public, just dogs brought in by animal control. If the county does reduce these services I can see many people just start to dump dogs and cats in the rural areas, or areas just outside of town where many fairly expensive housing communities have sprung up. I can see all of those dumped animals hanging around those homes looking for food. Not a good situation, that's probably why all Michigan counties don't follow the path our county wants to follow. Our county is basing their plan solely on the 1919 Michigan Dog Law, a base minimum for animal control, which again, every other Michigan county does not follow for minimum services. If other less well off counties can afford it I'm baffled why Washtenaw County can't. Sorry for the long winded reply.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:56 a.m., can you clarify the $900,000 number that you write is HSHV's operating budget? Looking at HSHV's audited financials on their website, it appears their operating budget is in the millions.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 5:28 a.m.

Thanks for raising the question. I believe that information was taken from a previous story, and you're right, it appears to conflict with other information out there now. I took out the sentence referencing the $900,000 figure until I can verify it. In the meantime, I've added the chart that's being circulated into the story.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:05 a.m.

I wondered at that too. Possibly they're referring to this chart: <a href="," rel='nofollow'>,</a> which pegs the portion of animal control that the county contract doesn't pay for at about $994K.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:43 a.m.

Well said, Goofus. I'm definitely voting against this BOC next Fall.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:47 a.m.

I should clarify that I look forward to supporting candidates who are more sensible on funding this important service.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:24 a.m.

Bear in mind that this is same County Govt &amp; BOC that ended up having a much smaller deficit this year than was forecase last year, and also wanted to hand an amount far surpassing the meager 250,000 that the HVHS outside consultants and in the form of raises to senior employees.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:20 a.m.

This whole circus is an absurd example of the typical economic blackmail tactics I've come to expect from this incarnation of the BOC, which is made up, largely, of an unflattering combinations of politcally nespotic climbers, over-age NIMBY's who are fossilized in their county seats, and a smattering of inexperienced provincial nabobs on the merry-go-round at their first rodeo. For some insane reason, they've decided this pointlessly cruel fight...and politically counterproductive come election time, I'll wager... is THE ONE to take a hardline as fiscally-conservative cost cutters on. For what purpose? So they later attempt to mend fences by giving in and handing over some money when no one's looking (like they did with the Head Start and human service monies)? Or so that they can wait for the stream of negative press about dog euthanization and cat overpopulation that hits...oh, say next fall, right around election time? Hollywood has it right with the old wisdom: make sure there's a dog in the picture. And don't cut off your nose to spite your face, said some wise man. This BOC reminds of the worst aspects of our political system where in order to prove that you're right, that you're Top Dog, it is expedient to work towards alienating your own electorate by accepting a fiscally conservative policy of self-abuse and self-denial that hurts everybody but hurts the poor and powerless the most. On prior commentor put it right: &quot; they climb over dollars to save a few pennies&quot;. Shame on this BOC for letting it come to this.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

Such an appalling conversation. I cannot understand how it is good stewardship to cut a successful--VERY successful--program's budget by HALF.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:33 a.m.

I used to volunteer at the Shelter. I saw such dedicated workers and volunteers determined to give loving care on the proverbial shoestring. The animals are living beings, or as somewould say &quot;God's creatures.&quot; Indirectly, the Humane Society of Huron Valley prevents some dogs from suffering as perennially suffering breeding dogs in puppy mills. By caring for abandoned and unwanted dogs and cats locally, many get adopted by people who would otherwise create demand for animals bred in ways that make some animals suffer. How can we feel good about our greenbelt initiative to curb development on some farmland while we sentence more animals to death?


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:17 a.m.

Ok, let's look at the numbers we are talking about. The difference is $250k. There are about 347,000 people in Washtenaw county. That savings amounts to a grand total of 71 cents PER YEAR. Let's say we take a family of 10 people, that means that family has seen the county spend this much effort and time to to save them $7.10. This is an example of the county jumping over dollars to pick up pennies. Maybe they should spend some time &quot;saving&quot; money where they really can do some good.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

@ johnnya2 I will volunteer! At no cost! &quot;This is an example of the county jumping over dollars to pick up pennies.&quot; The same old its not that much is what has bankrupt this state!


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

@joe.blow I am glad you believe it is appropriate for the county to break the mandate the state of Michigan has. I would also point out that killing the dog on the spot would have a cost. Who is going to spend the time tpo track the dog and kill it? Will they use those special free bullets? Will they find a volunteer to do it? As for you option regarding colon cancer, you as a right winger must believe that the government can not cure disease, only a private industry can do that. Why isn't there a business devoted to that putting their own money into that research. I mean come on, curing cancer should have a great return on investment. Oh wait, no, cures really are not profitable. TREATMENTS are what is profitable. If you cure something the profit is taken out of the mix.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:47 a.m.

I don't think we would notice the difference if these strays where just put down on site, thus my 0.71 is being wasted on something I don't believe in. Thanks a lot you socialist. I'd rather spend the money on finding a cure for colon cancer.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:48 a.m.

Add too that the salary costs expended to discuss or negotiate the picking up of pennies and the $250K difference shrink even further (or grows depending on your perspective). I suspect this amount is less than the overages at the new jail and court bldg, be they be force majeure or design.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:43 a.m.

ummm.. why is allowing some of these comments?. funny the ones that get blocked.. and this other garbage about eating the cats and dogs.. &quot; giving them to the poor&quot; gets in..


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:42 a.m.

borrow money from the art committee. they got 1.5mil in the banking account.

Robert Stone

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:48 p.m.

Joe Citizen: I assuming you're joking, but if not.... Domesticated animals can't usually survive in the wild. Not only that, but feral dogs will form packs and actually kill people. They're not exactly going to stay on a wildlife preserve.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 8:11 a.m.

Whats the use of keeping them alive. I say just take them to the state forest and set them free.they are going to die anyway, may as well give them a chance to live anyway.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:43 a.m.

i was thinking the same thing.. or maybe use the money they get from tickets from the ped crossings


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:34 a.m.

Barbara Bergman say &quot;It is my hope that HSHV will reply to the RFP and offer to sell us services at a unit price that we can afford within our budget&quot; - HAS SHE NOT BEEN LISTENING?? They cannot afford to provide the services at a 50% CUT. Lets cut Barbara's income in half and see how that goes. I urge you to read this - <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Please - read the last part written by a staff person at HSHV. If the commissioners do not fix this and do the right thing we will all suffer. I hope Barbara is listening. I live in her district and I vote.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

That was a very well written statement and sentiment. But wow, that is one clean facility that is very well kept. No, I have not seen the new facility, just remember the old one. Thanks for posting this.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

I believe firmly, and I am unanimous in this, that stray cats should service one another

tom swift jr.

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

We are quickly becoming a third world country.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

I could not agree more. International Humane Society over in third world countries are fighting to correct a lot of the problems they are having over there. By spaying and neutering they are reducing the pet population by the hundreds. Over here? The ASPCA will be having a field day with this county if we don't support the needs to the animals and the owners who can't afford to feed them and take care of them. We have two and the cost every April for the heartworm is scary but we manage to squirrel away a few bucks just to make sure they don't make us sick. I am so sick to hear that politics are going to give way to a displaced animal. I think it is time to surrender our animals to Rescue groups if this is the way Wastenaw County is going to treat our fur babies.

Monica R-W

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 6:52 a.m.

This is a tragedy. These innocent dogs, cats and other animals HVHS take care of shouldn't come down to a fight over dollars. Shameful.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:57 a.m.

Hey joe, that's not what happens at HSHV. Although if the county has their way, that's exactly what will happen--except it'll happen in days and not weeks.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

No, in a third world country Fido would be a valued pet .... until dinner. Here we have a very expensive service round up dogs, house them for a few weeks, &quot;euthanize them,&quot; and throw them in the garbage. We're much better than a 3rd world country.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

Maybe Washtenaw County can partner with U-M Survival Flight to help maintain the stray cat population...

Billy Bob Schwartz

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 11:54 p.m.

Gross. At least from my culturally-deprived view.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

I'm sorry but there are hungry people and there is surplus protein rich sources going to waste... Other than outdated and backward thinking, why can't you kill 2 birds with one stone?


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

Who's trolling?? I assume that was directed at me regardless. Pray tell how would I be negatively affected?

Robert Stone

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:51 p.m.

Very funny. All your trolling is doing is detracting from discussion of a serious issue. If you become negatively impacted somehow then it might not seem so funny anymore.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

Dawn, I suppose I am less feeling towards wasted resources than other (hungry) human beings.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2 p.m.

Of course they do, Ricebrnr, and they have no trouble articulating that.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 8:43 a.m.

You are an unfeeling human being or are you a human at all? Why don't you advoacate lowering the HUMAN population to control the hungry. It's our fault these people are on this planet and hungry yet we just keep having more!


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:55 a.m.

Terri, lots of people find other ideas that you find mundane to be similarly less than palatable. Not saying I agree


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

Many an example in history and across cultures where that has occurred. Certain cultures have taboos against pigs and others against cows too. This is a &quot;green&quot; city isn't it? I thought wasting resources was taboo here.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:09 a.m.


Stupid Hick

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:32 a.m.

Socialism! By giving cat and dog carcasses to hungry people who can't afford them, are you not simply giving them an incentive to remain in poverty? The lazy bums should have to earn their stray pet carcasses. It's the American way.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:28 a.m.

Why stop there? Next up - &quot;Soylent Green&quot;.