Humane Society cancels county deal

Officials scrambling for alternatives for stray and abused animals

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Emilee Peltier, left, and Brook Silver give some love to one of the cats up for adoption at the Huron Humane Society on Tuesday. The shelter has terminated its contract with Alpena County for animal care, but operations at HHS will continue as normal.

ALPENA — The Alpena County Board of Commissioners has contracted with Huron Humane Society for years to provide housing and care for animals picked up by animal control.

Now, the county is scrambling to find another option after HHS chose late last month to void the agreement. The HHS ends all services with the county today.

Huron Humane Society President Cindy Johnson said the shelter is appreciative of the relationship it had with the county, but taking care of the animals and building at the fairgrounds had become burdensome and costly.

Commissioner John Kozlowski said that, for the time being, animals that are strays, abused or abandoned will be kept in the county’s small building at the fairgrounds, which has been used to house animals for short periods. He said HHS was paid $1,458 a month for its services, which included care for the animals at the fairgrounds.

Now, the sheriff’s department will take over that responsibility. Kozlowski said the small facility is not adequate to house animals for extended periods of time.

“There is no way that it can be used for a longterm facility,” he said. “It is too small and not equipped properly.”

Kozlowski said HHS presented a proposal featuring 24 items it wanted to be included in a new contract to revive services. He said a special committee has been formed and is handling negotiations.

He said he had questions on HHS’s demands, which he said some created additional logistical hurdles and increased costs compared to the former deal.

“A lot of what they sent focused on financial issues and I want to know, how much will this cost the county when everything is taken into account?” he said. “I suspect it is going to be significantly more.”

Without the shelter to help care for the animals at the fairgrounds, the county will rely on the sheriff’s office to do so. Kozlowski said a request for funding for additional help is expected to go before the county board’s Personnel Committee, which will consider the request and make a recommendation to the full board.

Johnson said HHS covered the cost of all supplies, utilities and labor to care for the animals and the money paid to the private, nonprofit shelter was going entirely to the county facility. Johnson said that needed to stop because it was making the shelter’s mission harder to achieve.

“Our mission is to rehabilitate and re-homing animals and none of the money we were getting went toward doing that,” she said. “We didn’t want any more money, not one dollar, all we wanted was to not do the animal control facility any longer.”

Johnson said the termination of the contract has zero impact on operations at the shelter. She said the only thing that will change is the business with the county.

“Everything we were doing we will still be doing,” she said. “Nothing changes.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.