If the Tooele County Animal Shelter is to improve its adoption rate, it’s going to require more funds — and those funds will likely have to come from animal lovers themselves, according to the shelter’s director.
Joe Roundy, DVM, who contracts to run the county shelter out of his private veterinary practice, said the shelter takes in about three stray animals a week. Of those that arrive, he estimated about 40 percent are claimed by their owners. Of the 60 percent that remain at the shelter, about 20 percent find homes.
The rest are euthanized.
It’s not a fact Roundy is proud of. He and his office staff have gone to great lengths to find homes for stray animals — putting adoptable kittens in kennels in the front office, placing advertisements, and even taking some animals home to buy them more time.
But the shelter still struggles to find adoptive homes, and Roundy said it’s largely a reflection of the shelter’s financial reality.
And although a group of local animal advocates brought the situation to the surface with a presentation at a Tooele County Commission meeting last month, leading to some discussion of potential change, Roundy isn’t hopeful the current dialog will bring in additional funding.
“We’ve asked these rescue groups — donate money, that’s what helps,” he said. “But they don’t like that answer, and the county — they’re broke.”
As a shelter manager, Roundy is required by the state to keep impounded animals for a minimum of five working days. In accord with that requirement, the county pays Roundy $11 per day for dogs and $8 per day for cats, up to the required five working days. After that, the county will pay Roundy $17 per cat or $30 per dog to recoup the cost of euthanizing the animal.
Normal boarding rates, Roundy said, start at $17 per day.
“Those are reduced rates,” he said. “I haven’t had a raise in seven years.”
As a veterinarian, Roundy also donates medical services to the county, conducting exams, deworming and vaccinating animals, and even fixing animals free of charge when necessary to prepare them for adoption.
When the animals do find homes, Roundy said he does charge $116 to recoup the costs of those services — a fee that animal advocates at July’s meeting said prevents animals from finding homes in the first place.
Roundy, however, said the charges are not adoption fees, but necessary to prevent the shelter from becoming a revolving door.
“I’m not selling dogs. I’m just getting reimbursed for discount boarding, vaccines, and a checkup,” he said. “I require vaccinations when I adopt and deworm. If they’re not willing to do that, they’re not a willing pet owner. Why are they balking that I want to vaccinate and deworm a dog?”
Repeated attempts to reach advocates who attended July’s commission meeting were unsuccessful. During the meeting, advocates generally agreed that funding was a major barrier to improve the adoption rate at the county shelter, and specifically requested that the county reimburse Roundy at least as much to adopt out an animal as he currently receives for animals that are euthanized.
Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne indicated during the meeting that he would like to hold discussions with both Roundy and the animal advocate groups to see if such talks could lead to a viable solution.
“It’s not moving quickly, but I do think there will be a favorable solution,” he said last week, after hosting private meetings with Roundy and local advocates. “I think there is a broader understanding of each party’s perspective, and I see a real opportunity for bridge building.”
Milne said the county would like to keep an eye toward creating a no-kill shelter situation, but added that it may not be financially viable for the county to support an entirely no-kill shelter at this time.
“I think it would be great if we had the additional funds for all that, but it is a difficult balance in our current situation, where we are just now seeing dividends from our cuts,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods yet. We have a tough challenge trying to prioritize spending. Budget talks are coming in the next few months, and we’ll have to see how this measures against other county departments’ wants and needs.”
Until then, Roundy called on local animal lovers to organize and raise funds to help him buy more time for Tooele County’s homeless pets.
“Why are they expecting the county to foot the bill,” he said. “I think [fundraising] would solve their problem. That would definitely solve their problem, if they would step up to the plate.”