Dubuque county changes stray animal policy - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque county changes stray animal policy

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

A change in Dubuque County's stray animal policy could lead to some confusion and public safety concerns.

The Dubuque County board of supervisors chose to let its contract with the Dubuque Regional Humane Society expire last week. It was a partnership that had spanned decades.

As of February 1, the contract between the Dubuque Regional Humane Society (DRHS) and Dubuque County is no longer valid. Formerly, any stray animal found in the county could be surrendered at the facility, at a cost to taxpayers of $108 per animal. In recent years, Dubuque County has paid in the neighborhood of $30,000 per year to contract for the services.

Negotiations this time around failed. The DRHS wanted a one-year contract in which they'd receive $25,000 for their services. The Dubuque County supervisors wanted a three-year contract in which they'd pay the DRHS $18,000 per year. The DRHS rejected that offer.

Dubuque County supervisor Wayne Demmer said the supervisors are being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.

"The dollars we had been spending had been quite more than we wanted to and it had continued to increase," he said. "People in the towns don't dump their dogs in town. They take them to the country and hopefully someone will pick them up and give them a home. Well, the county's paying the biggest part of all of these bills because these stray animals end up here."

Jane McCall, the DRHS president and CEO, said she feels it's unfortunate the supervisors let the contract expire.

"We really felt we were doing a good job. We provide 24 hour a day, seven days a week for people and the sheriff to bring their animals here if they find a lost or stray animal," she said.

Dubuque County is now partnering with some local veterinarians to house the county's strays, paying the vets the same rate as the DRHS got: $108 per animal. As of the expiration of the contract, the county had a partnership with the Animal Health Clinic and the Dyersville Veterinary Clinic, both in Dyersville.

McCall said the new partnerships could create confusion for people in the county who lose their animals and don't know where to look.

"We took the ones that came in from the sheriff and people who found stray animals, so anyone knew that if they lost stray animals, they could check here, which they did," she said, adding, "We had a 42 percent return rate on dogs that were found in the county."

Demmer said he and the other two supervisors felt some county residents - and even folks in area cities - were abusing the taxpayer dollar-funded services.

"People who don't have animals shouldn't have to pay for the extra dogs and strays around the county," Demmer said.

Dubuque County residents are now encouraged to call the sheriff's office if they see a stray animal.

To clarify, the policy change affects only stray animals. Dubuque County residents can still bring their personal pets to the DRHS if they want to give them up for adoption. All they have to do is pay the $40 surrender fee, as always, and the DRHS will take county residents' pets.

Last year, McCall said, seven percent of the animals that came into the DRHS were strays from the county. The loss of the contract accounts for a drop in about on percent of the DRHS's approximately one million dollar annual budget.

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