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Posted on Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Washtenaw County asking Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and others to pay up for animal control services

By Amy Biolchini

Washtenaw County is in talks with five municipalities, including Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, to ask them to pay for animal control services the county is currently providing to them for free.

The negotiations are the next order of business for the county as it struggles to find new revenue streams and keep its relationship on good terms with the Humane Society of Huron Valley, the nonprofit agency with which Washtenaw County currently contracts for animal control.

Administrator Verna McDaniel said she’s spoken with representatives from each of the local governments that currently have ordinances regarding animal control policies: Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Superior Township and Pittsfield Township.


Verna McDaniel

The revenue from the licensing programs in most of the municipalities stay within those local governments, but the county has to foot the bill when dogs from their municipalities wander or are housed during cruelty investigations — something the county commissioners desperately want to fix.

“Now that we all are having these budget constraints, we’re under a cost-share model,” McDaniel said. “We’re hoping that it’s a cost benefit to everyone. It keeps the cost of animal control sustainable for the whole county. This is a way for us to continue partnering and leveraging great services.”

About 80 percent of the seized and stray animals at the Humane Society come from those five jurisdictions, according to an analysis conducted by the county. Washtenaw County currently does not charge any municipality individually to provide animal control measures.

The county is mandated by the state to provide shelter for stray dogs and dogs that are seized during cruelty investigations, but is not required to do so for cats. However, the county has decided that it wants to provide shelter for stray cats.

As the county seeks a way to fund a level of animal control services beyond what it is mandated to provide, the county is now asking those five governments to pay for the services they’re currently getting for free.

“We need some cash on the table so we can move this thing forward,” McDaniel said, explaining the new revenue stream would take some of the burden off of the county.

McDaniel said her goal is to develop contract agreements with the five municipalities before meeting with the Humane Society board to discuss the county’s contract with them.

“When we finally meet with the Humane Society, it will hopefully be with a proposal with other revenue streams that we can contract for,” McDaniel said. “We’re going to do our very best to come up with a contract with the Humane Society.”

The county’s current $415,000 contract with the Humane Society of Huron Valley ends Dec. 31. It was a cut from the $500,000 contract the county had with the organization in 2011, though the same level of service was provided both years.

During a Sept. 7 meeting of the Board of Commissioners, Mark Heusel, vice president of the Humane Society’s board, made a statement that the organization could not continue to shoulder funding cuts from the county.

County commissioners have yet to approve the policy recommendations that came out of two task forces that met throughout the summer.

Per a previous resolution passed by the county board this fall, commissioners would have been bound to put out a request for proposals for animal control services if no headway had been made with the Humane Society by Oct. 31. However, McDaniel said that a request for proposals wasn't necessary.

At the meeting of the Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday, the body will consider a resolution for McDaniel to negotiate a $500,000 annual contract with the Humane Society for up to four years.

Pittsfield Township voted unanimously Oct. 25 with no discussion to contract with the county for about $18,000 a year for the next for years to cover animal control service costs.

Mandy Grewal, Pittsfield Township supervisor, said the township wants to continue to provide animal control services and didn’t feel as if they had much of a choice to vote it down.


Mandy Grewal

“I know that the county has faced a lot of budgetary constraints starting in fiscal year 2008. This is a continuation of them reviewing how they can provide services while trying to reduce their own costs,” Grewal said. “That is a service that we at the township are not able to pick up, but are required to pay for it.”

For the first year, Grewal said the $18,000 will come out of the township’s contingency budget of $100,000.

The $18,000 figure is an amount proposed by McDaniel, and is an amount the county believes is what is needed to cover the costs of managing the seized and stray animals from Pittsfield Township. The amount is about 5 percent of what the county currently pays for animal control services, Grewal said.

For the four other municipalities the county is seeking contracts with for animal control, McDaniel said the county is seeking undisclosed amounts and cannot release further information as negotiations are still progressing.

The contract amounts will be proportional to the cost of services rendered in each jurisdiction, McDaniel said.

Though Pittsfield Township has been the only local government to bring the issue before its elected officials to date, McDaniel said she’s spoken to representatives from all of them and has been pleased with the cordial, cooperative reception.

“Overall, we want to continue contracting for animal control services. We do not want to have our own facility and do it in-house,” McDaniel said.

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*Information from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office. **'s estimate of contract revenue from each municipality based on the rate the county has asked Pittsfield Township to pay.

Based on the $18,000 rate the county has asked Pittsfield Township to pay for its portion (5 percent) of stray and seized animals cared for by the Humane Society, the county could stand to bring in about $273,375 if it asked for contracts from the five municipalities using the same cost structure that it proposed to Pittsfield Township.

In addition to the potential contract revenue, the county is also considering additional dog license enforcement to help fund animal control services.

The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office estimates there’s about a 5 percent compliance with the current dog license fee structure. According to the Washtenaw County treasurer, that compliance has resulted in the following income to the county’s general fund:

  • 2009: $31,195
  • 2010: $37,922
  • 2011: $86,322 (3-year license program initiated)
  • 2012: $47,580 (through September 30)

Increasing dog license compliance by 10 percent or 20 percent could bring in thousands of additional dollars for the county, according to an analysis provided by the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.

With the passage of a new civil infractions ordinance, the county could also stand to bring in more revenue from easier enforcement of dog license violations through a new fee structure for offenders rather than a court date.

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



Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

who do i call to take care of in town nuisance coons?


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

GHOSTBUSTERS!!!(sorry, couldn't resist...)


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

How do we know that the dogs caught in the township are residents of the township? Maybe they are city dogs who escaped and ran toward greener pastures. The Humane Society should reduce its expenses and increase volunteer activity so as to provide service at lower cost.

Basic Bob

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

Crime dogs. Clearly they are all from Ypsi.

Tom Todd

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

Maybe those who voted for Romney, and no on 2, can contribute to this.

Unusual Suspect

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

And maybe apples are oranges.

Basic Bob

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

I wonder how many cities and townships will opt in for countywide service. Pittsfield could be the only one.

Beth Wilson

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

LOL! Nice move Washtenaw County! So HSHV shows you actual costs for County mandated services of $1.8 million and you pretend you never heard a word and go back to $500,000. Brilliant! Hey, Ann Arbor, how about paying your share of a critical and effective public health service instead of wasting money on waterfalls and bike paths nobody uses. Government continues its frivolous spending while nonprofits are bled to death doing their bidding. "Let them eat cake!"


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

Are you saying that HSHV has $600 in expenses for each dog seized? Even the ones who are picked up by their owners the next day?

no flamers!

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

Two points: 1) we should not accept the false argument that the cities and townships are getting something for free because the residents of those municipalities pay taxes both to the state (that requires all counties to provide this service) and the county; in other words, we are paying directly and the tax revenue doesn't need to route through a city or township for the county to be paid for this service. 2) even if the municipalities decide to pay the county, the municipalities should be allowed to decide whether to pay for the optional program for cats--the state only requires the county to provide services for dogs and yet the county decided to provide the same service for cats. that is fine, probably a good decision since cats killed tens of millions of songbirds, but that was a county decision and should not be imposed upon the cities and towns without consent.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

So my dogs are always vaccinated and in 20 years, never allowed one to become a stray. My neighbors (several of them) allow their cats to roam the neighborhood, some mangy and no doubt unvaccinated. The cats use the neighborhood as their litterbox. You expect dog owners such as myself to pay more for being responsible with our animals, yet cat owners are permitted to have no licensing. No responsibility. Oh, and we will cover stray services for cats too. Because someone has to be responsible.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

thoughtful, I take care of my ladies. both of them have been spayed, and their shots are up-to-date. not all cat owners are irresponsible so please don't paint us all with the same brush. slave2work, this comment also applies to you.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

This is so true. We have a family that has let their cat have 5 litters last year.. and they just roam all over. Nothing can be done, but it's ok to let this go on and on. We on the other hand , take care of our dogs, shots and vet visits walking playing , always on a leash, and pay to license. Something is wrong.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

According to the Humane Society's balance sheet for 2011 about 58% of their expenses are salaries and related costs. It would be interesting to know how many actual employees the have and how much they are being paid. What does the $415,000 contract actually pay for?


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

They are a non-profit, but maybe someone isn't with the program.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

Yeah, the most expensive part of running a business is paying workers.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

if you do dogs you need to do cats also.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

golfer, I don't understand why you are being voted down. I agree with you! sign me, an unapologetic cat lover!!!

Janet Neary

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

A fact that is missing from this article is what proportion of the county's tax revenue comes from each of these jurisdictions. I think it's ridiculous to say that Ann Arbor is getting something "for free" from the county given the fact that we pay property taxes to the county and get proportionally less in return

Brian Kuehn

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

If 20% of the stray/seized animals come from the other townships, why are they not asked to pay a proportional amount, too? While it is likely a small amount, if the county wants to share the cost, it ought to be spread over the entire county.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

Hmmm...the municipalities keep the licensing money, but leave it to the county to provide the services. Sounds like a Republican strategy to me: privitize the profits and socialize the costs. About time for that to change.

no flamers!

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

In your zeal to express a political opinion, you apparently forgot that cities and townships cannot possibly be used in an example of privatization. Oops. I think these message boards are better when we all just go to the voting booth to express political opinions and stay on topic.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

this is a HUGE red herring! The county wastes tons of money of umbrella organizations over umbrella organizations when it comes to health plans and community mental health. far more than the money we're talking about here. non-professional "executives" should be trimmed out of that infrastructure and actually right-sized instead this kind of an attempt to fleece the municipalities!


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

Ummmmm....."fleece"? interesting adjective, considering the subject matter.....