By Jeff Harrison
For years, Midwest City has provided animal care services for much of eastern Oklahoma County.
But those days could be coming to an end.
Midwest City leaders are reconsidering animal care services offered to other municipalities as well as plans for a new animal shelter. City council members discussed the issue during a July 11 council meeting after learning that the city has been losing money on current contracts with other municipalities.
Adrian Sanders, animal welfare department director, said the city has not been charging enough for its services and often times lacks space to accommodate additional animals. The current shelter has 24 kennels for animals.
The issue was raised due to a contract agreement with Harrah that was on the council agenda. The contract renewal included raising the cost of boarding an animal at the shelter from $85 to $105. Midwest City recently renewed a similar contract with Choctaw. The city spent about $264 per animal in 2016-17. The national average cost per animal for a shelter is between $250-500, according to the Shelter Planners of America.
Midwest City currently has contracts with Choctaw, Harrah, Nicoma Park and Jones for animal care services. The city previously contracted with Spencer, but cancelled the agreement due to lack of payment.
Councilman Pat Byrne said the city is setting its employees up to fail by not providing adequate resources.
“I’m not dismissing Harrah or Choctaw or any other cities we contract with but this is a Midwest City animal shelter and it should serve citizens of Midwest City and not all of eastern Oklahoma County,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing. And we’re losing money every day.”
Police Chief Brandon Clabes said the police department has been working to resolve the fiscal issues since taking over the animal welfare department in 2014. The city has made incremental increases to the contracts with other municipalities to recoup costs. The city also commissioned a study with Animal Shelters of America to outline needs of the shelter.
“Yes, we are losing money on these contracts,” Clabes said. “We inherited the contracts and have been trying to be good neighbors. We know we’re not getting enough, but we’re making incremental increases because I know the other cities have budgets too.”
In 2016-17, Midwest City took in 161 animals from other cities at a cost of about $42,650. Sanders said the city received about $13,185 from the contracts, leaving the department with a loss of about $29,465. The losses were lower than the previous two years. The city lost about $31,715 in 2015-16 and $43,282 in 2014-15.
Sanders said canceling the contracts with other municipalities would not solve the problem of animals coming into the shelter. He encouraged the city council to explore other options such as asking other communities for more support or a possible partnership for a new animal shelter. Midwest City is planning to include a new animal shelter in a bond election next year.
“I can’t save every animal in the state of Oklahoma and I’m not going to try to do it,” Sanders said. “If other cities can’t belly up and do what needs to be done then why should our taxpayers have to do it for them?”
Other council members were concerned about cancelling contracts with smaller cities that have limited options for animal care.
“We’re all talking about how we love animals and want the best for them, but do you think that (cancelling the contracts) is the best idea when those cities don’t have anywhere to take the animals,” said Christine Allen, councilwoman.
Councilwoman Susan Eads suggested renewing the contract with Harrah until the end of the year, but reconsidering agreements with all of the neighboring communities. The council unanimously approved the motion.
Midwest City leaders are expected to revisit a bond proposal that includes a variety of capital projects. The city had planned to put the item on the Oct. 10 ballot, but held off due to concerns about an animal shelter and school bond election scheduled for the same day.