You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Washtenaw County approves $500K for contract with Humane Society of Huron Valley

By Amy Biolchini

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approved the negotiation of a $500,000 contract with the Humane Society of Huron Valley at its Ways and Means meeting Wednesday night as an end of an investigation into the costs and requirements for animal control services.

The exact details of what would be provided under that contract weren’t included in the resolution that was approved.

Additionally, the final four-year contract that County Administrator Verna McDaniel works out with the Humane Society will not come before the county board for approval, although McDaniel said she will make sure the commissioners receive a copy in advance of its finalization.

The resolution also included language for the administrator to negotiate separate contracts with each of the five municipalities that have their own ordinances regarding animal control policies to get them to pay up for a portion of the cost of the service. Those municipalities include Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Pittsfield Township and Superior Township - and Pittsfield Township has already allocated $18,000 for 2013 for its share at the request of McDaniel.

Though the board voted 7-3 to pass the resolution, several commissioners were intensely critical of the way the matter was coming before them at the second to the last Ways and Means meeting of the board this term. Commissioners Dan Smith, Rolland Sizemore Jr. and Wesley Prater voted against the resolution, and Ronnie Peterson was absent.

“This has been a very gnarly problem for all of us,” said Commissioner Leah Gunn, D-Ann Arbor. “I will be voting for it reluctantly. One of the things that has vexed me is the Humane Society has never come up with a figure for how much it costs per day to house dogs, and how much we are responsible for. … We are not responsible for people’s pets.”

Commissioner Rob Turner, R-Chelsea, who has worked with the Animal Control Task Force and the Humane Society to come up with an animal control policy recommendation for the county, said that the rate to house stray dogs is about $38 per day.

Commissioner Dan Smith, R- Northfield Township, said he was bothered by the process as well.

“We’re at the same $500,000 price that we were a year ago. Absolutely no progress has been made,” Smith said.

For $38 per day, Smith extrapolated that it would mean a dog could get a nice apartment in Ann Arbor for about $1,100 per month - or if two dogs pooled their resources, they could get a fairly nice hotel room for the night.

“I wish we had come to something better at this point. This seems like we’ll be putting the problem away for four years,” Smith said.

The county is mandated by the state to house stray dogs and dogs involved in cruelty investigations.

The issue arose about two yeas ago when commissioners wanted to know if the amount they paid to the Humane Society annually was actually what they should be paying to cover the mandated services by the state - sparked by an attempt to reduce the county’s contribution to the Humane Society from $500,000 to about $265,000.

The reduction was not met with a positive reaction from the Humane Society, and the county approved a last-minute funding change to $415,000 for the 2012 year.

Commissioners haggled over several minor amendments to the proposed resolution that was brought before them Wednesday night - and at some points Ways and Means meeting Chairman Rolland Sizemore Jr., D-Ypsilanti Township, had to continually seek guidance as to what the board members were voting on.

“As a commissioner I support the Humane Society. As an individual, I have not been happy with this,” said Commissioner Barbara Levin Bergman, D-Ann Arbor, instructing McDaniel to negotiate a contract quickly as to not waste any additional staff hours on its determination.

Bergman said she’ll be shifting her charitable donations to the Humane Society to only fund food for the animals they care for.

Commissioner Wesley Prater, D-York Township, said he was concerned by the process by which the contract negotiations were approved without submitting a request for proposals for the service, an act Prater said violates the county’s policy.

“Is that the kind of organization we’re going to run in a lame duck period?” Prater said.

The Humane Society of Huron Valley is the only viable provider for animal control services in Washtenaw County - a fact that corporation counsel Curtis Hedger said meant that a request for proposals for the service was deemed to be not necessary by the county administrator.

“I will not support this,” said Commissioner Sizemore. “I’m not in favor of the county doing the contract and not having the contract come back to this board. I have a real problem with the Humane Society … You’re trying to tell me I have to go into negotiations with unions and tell them to cut but we’re going to give the HSHV whatever they want?”

One of the major problems the board has been having with the entire animal control issue is that it’s one of the few mandated services that the county has a contract with a third party for, Smith said.

Commissioner Alicia Ping, R-Saline, disagreed with the majority opinion on the board that the process was done poorly.

“I don’t think it was a waste of anybody’s time to go through this,” Ping said. “The intent was never to say, ‘Can we get these services for less money;’ it was to see how much the cost is … I feel like we’re in a good place and we finally have the information we need.”

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 11 p.m.

I say "GREAT!" Our Humane Society is awesome, and manned by a slew of volunteers who are working hard to lend a hand and make the money given stretch even farther. We are lucky to have such a fantastic resource. It is worth every penny. Stop your bitter complaining, fools.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

$2.8 million in employee salaries and benefits eh?


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.

So over 50% of operating expenses for a non-profit going to salary is normal?


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

Oops, I repeat myself.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

For a $15M organization, that is average. Plus they have to pay Living Wage and not minimum wage since they have the county contract. That means they pay $4-$6 and hour more per person for the privilege to be abused by the BOC to have that contract. Maybe the county should pay the difference in salary?


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

For a $15m organization, that's average. A County run shelter would have a lot higher salaries. At least they give their employees benies. Plus they have to pay Living Wage since they have a county contract and not minimum wage. A difference of $4.15/hour for each full time employee and $6.12/hr for each part time. That's a big chunk O change they pay to have the privilege to have a County Contract. Maybe the County should pay the difference in salary too?


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:48 p.m. Salaries $1,042,624 Functional expenses $1,764,371


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:59 p.m.

Yeah...I have absolutely NO clue where than "86 cents on every dollar" figure came from....

Mary Warren

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

I couldn't agree more with Lee and Beth. My neighbor just adopted a dog from the Humane Society and when I went with her to pick up the little guy I was so impressed by the level of customer service and care that the staff and even the volunteers put into their work. I've done some homework because I keep seeing this issue come up with our Commissioners. This non-profit has a 4-star Charity Navigator Rating for I think 3 years in a row now (Check other humane societies around the area)! They are fiscally responsible, compassionate and competent. Why on earth would we be looking to put the care of our communities animals in any other organizations hands? This makes no sense. Pay them for their services - we all know it's the best deal going and what's more we all should be proud that our humane society is doing this work. Believe me when I tell you that other Counties are not so lucky!

Dog Lover

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

It's mind boggling that this has taken so long. When this process started, the BOC was given and posted information about the cost of Animal Control in the surrounding counties which exceeded $800k and they don't even provide the services that the Humane Society provides. The Ann Arbor Chronicle & have reported this story for over a year now where the Humane Society laid out the actual cost to the county and additional costs that the Humane Society picks up after the County's obligation for holding animals is met. It's pretty clear that the cost for these services is far more than the BOC wants to pay. The daily rate is for a limited amount of time, based on what the county is responsible for. Anything past that hold time is paid by the Humane Society. Maybe the BOC should explore how much it would cost us county tax payers if they start their own animal control division run by the sheriff. I would bet my left kidney it would far exceed what anyone wants to pay. Every other surrounding county has an animal control division run (ineffectively) by the those counties. We are fortunate to have an organization like the Humane Society to help defray some of these costs and provide stellar care to those animals. The Humane Society has provided their costs and substantiated their services to the BOC. Why O why does the BOC continue to beat down a non-profit that has proven their worth in the community to provide excellent services? Maybe it's time to put this to the voters and get it out of this inept BOC?

Cendra Lynn

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

1. It's a state mandate 2. This is what it costs 3. There is no other organization providing this service. 4. The cost is what it is. HSHV has clean books. 5. Progress does not mean having a lower cost. Progress means investigating the situation to see if it is flawed in any way. 6. Getting angry because the cost stays the same while expenses have risen is irrational.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 11:03 p.m.

thank you for spelling it out. you are so right!

Dorothy Strotkamp

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 6:19 p.m.

Many blessings to the commisioners that supported this service. May the others, some day, see the value of taking care of all God's creaatures. Kindness to animals does make a better world for us all.

Beth Wilson

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

Couldn't agree more with Lee! As a volunteer at HSHV and two other local nonprofits over the years I have followed the Commissions discussions on budgets very closely. I am sorry, but this article is absurd. There is no history or real information provided. The County created an extensive process with two separate work groups who collected and analyzed service and financial data from the HSHV and discussed public policy on animal control. One of those groups was made up entirely of County Commissioners. Now, instead of making decisions based on facts and data, several commissioners act like they still know nothing. While in the beginning I could write off their ignorance as being new or misinformed, at this point I can only believe their claim of lacking information is result of choice, lie or disability. The facts are that this award winning organization who has stamp of highest approval from Charity Navigator for their strong fiscal management, efficiency and prudence; whose auditors say they spend 86 cents of every dollar directly on services to animals and people; and whose peers named them best shelter in the state, twice, is being demonized by people who do exactly what they accuse others of doing. By all other evidence and accounts, HSHV is effective and prudent and our County Government could learn much from their leadership and acumen. If they are wasting any money or time it is by being strung along by these charlatans. I feel terribly sorry for any hard working County employees who must be represented and led by these people. Unfortunately does nothing to set the record straight. Meeting after meeting, with agendas, reports, minutes—it's all public information. I'd suggest going to the Ann Arbor Chronicle if you want actual facts, or if you want to fill like a big shot politician, just sit in the dark and give your opinions.

Mary Warren

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

Well said. Thank you for caring enough to write this. I'm heading over the Chronicle right now.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

This is what we are spending more than a year on? What does the county want? Who can do it best and for the least amount of money? These two simple questions take more than a year? This appears to be a politically motivated fiasco piloted by incompetent idiots, schemeing rats, egomaniacal fools or a combination of all three. What other companies that the county contracts with are bullied into providing a detailed blueprint at its own expense of its costs and data for the county to possibly use to issue an RFP? I realize that local government is sometimes a bastion of ideologues who couldn't poor.....rain....out of a boot with the instructions on the heel but this is Ann Arbor!! One of the countries greatest institutions for higher learning is here and we get this?


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

I think animal control and care at 500,000 is a wee bit more important than a new 60million+ library, Ms. Gunn. A no brainer in my humble opinion.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 4:23 p.m.

So is the contract approved or is it just before yet one more committee?

Amy Biolchini

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

As I understand it, the contract has yet to be drafted. The commissioners voted to give the administrator the authority to negotiate a four-year contract with HSHV for animal control services without any board approval as to the terms and conditions. The amount was set at an $500,000 annual contribution from the county to the HSHV for the contract. The board has not formally approved the policy recommendations that were generated by the Animal Control Task Force this summer. The HSHV is a nonprofit organization and has a much larger budget funded by contributions and volunteer hours.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

I guess Leah Gunn cares more about books and internet cafes than people's pets.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

Buh-bye Leah! And So Long Barbara!


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

My thoughts exactly.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

At least Humane Society has a basic plan for what they will do with their money, unlike Ms. Gunn's pet library project planners....

Jeffersonian Liberal

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Nice job. Another fine example of incompetent local government just rushing through a contract without requiring the Humane Society to provide documentation. It's just the taxpayers money, rubber stamp and get to the next item. SUCKERS!


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

Links to audited financials here:


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

"For $38 per day, Smith extrapolated that it would mean a dog could get a nice apartment in Ann Arbor for about $1,100 per month - or if two dogs pooled their resources, they could get a fairly nice hotel room for the night." Isn't the $38 just the county's portion of funding? On top of that there are all of the other sources that HSHV has for housing the animals. And there are the large numbers of volunteers giving their free services. I would still like to know who is on the payroll and how much they are receiving in compensation and added benefits. They are a non-profit.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

rsa221, I've read the balance sheet you are talking about, but there are no specifics on it. How many employees do they have and in what capacity? Are there 15 employees, or 100?

Cendra Lynn

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

Being a non-profit doesn't mean the organization does not make money. It means that no individuals can pocket the profits. The profit must go back into the organization and donations are tax-deductible.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

There are links to audited financials on this page I don't have accounting background, but HSHV seems pretty transparent.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

If they're a non-profit I think their finances are available to the public.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

"Commissioner Rob Turner, R-Chelsea, who has worked with the Animal Control Task Force and the Humane Society to come up with an animal control policy recommendation for the county, said that the rate to house stray dogs is about $38 per day." Just currious....what is the rate to keep an inmate per day at the hogback hilton? Yes I know they usually bill the inmate for it at least...but I'm just curious as to what the disparity is between housing a stray dog and an alleged criminal.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

There is a lot more to the expenses to run a animal control unit than the cost of a room. For example: Building expenses like maintenance & heating, manpower, phones and trucks and more. Looking at it as a cheap hotel room for animals is the only expense view is just plain wacked.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

Doesn't a hotel room include electricity, heat/AC, property taxes, staff, etc.?

Dog Lover

Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 7:26 p.m.

@Billy. It was $19,000 that was stolen and the people were caught. It was the day after their big fundraiser which is why the money was in the safe - it was Sunday. My family volunteered at the shelter then and it was traumatic for everyone, including the staff. It's all different management since that time. Look at their web-site if you want to see where their financials.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

The thing is......there is no reason they can't give you that they must not want to... Look I've raised an eyebrow at the HSHV ever since about 7-8 years ago they had a "breakin" where "supposedly" $80K was stolen out of an unlocked safe in the director's office.... They never got the money back as far as I know....NOR could they ever explain why there was that much cash in the safe in the first place....the whole thing STUNK of an inside job but they couldn't prove it. Ever since then I've started to notice some questionable things the HSHV does...


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

I'm sure those costs are supposedly included in the $38 figure.