City leaders reaching out to communities about creating regional animal shelter
By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City leaders don’t know the best way to handle animal welfare services in eastern Oklahoma County.
But they agree the current plan isn’t working. And think a regional animal shelter could be a solution.
The City Council Tuesday evening voted to end existing animal welfare contracts with neighboring communities effective Jan. 1, 2018. The decision affects contracts with Choctaw, Nicoma Park and Jones. The council took the same action earlier this month with Harrah.
Under the current contracts, Midwest City provides animal welfare services for the municipalities, which includes boarding animals at the shelter on NE 36th Street. Midwest City officials say they are losing money and prized kennel space under the arrangement. Police Chief Brandon Clabes said the amount of money the city receives from the contracts does not cover the basic cost of services. The additional animals also contribute to overcrowding at the animal shelter, which has 24 kennels.
Clabes said they learned of the issues following a study by the Shelter Planners of America in 2014, shortly after the police department took control of the department. To offset the loss of money, the department has been increasing fees with the yearly renewals but the kennel space is an ongoing problem.
Midwest City is looking to build a new animal shelter in the near future. The project was originally considered as part of a $41.5 million bond proposal, but was later removed from the final draft. Animal advocates and citizens spoke out against the decision to pull the animal shelter project. The city council ultimately held off on the bond proposal until early next year, and vowed to build a new shelter.
Clabes sent a letter to all of the effected communities explaining the decision and inviting them to discuss possible solutions for animal welfare in the area. Mayor Matt Dukes said he will also try to garner support for a joint venture with the neighboring communities.
“I’m interested to see what the support is going to be,” Dukes said. “We’re crossing into new territory as far as a municipality and entering into an agreement with multiple municipalities to offer a service.”
The city council heard from one resident about the issue. Katie Hawk, who is a member of Good Dogma, a non-profit organization aimed at reducing pet overpopulation in the area, expressed concern about how the decision to cancel the animal welfare contracts would impact the other communities.
“If those communities want to support a regional facility and their contract ends January 1, 2018, what are they supposed to do between then and the new shelter?” Hawk asked the council.
Councilman Sean Reed and Dukes said the city would work with any communities interested in a partnership.
“We’ll assist them in any way we can, just like we have for years. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Dukes said.
Hawk agreed but asked if the city was making a rash decision. Councilman Rick Dawkins said the city is following the terms of the contract and believes the decision is necessary to create a dialogue.
“Without the letter (from Clabes) and us doing this (cancelling the contract) it would never change,” Dawkins said. “Why would they change when they can send them here for less. And I can’t look any of my people in the eye and say ‘I’m financing Choctaw, Nicoma Park and Jones.’”
Councilwoman Christine Allen said the city should provide more notice to the other communities and believed the action would harm animals in the area.
The council voted 5-1 to cancel the contracts with Choctaw, Nicoma Park and Jones. Allen cast the lone no vote. Councilwoman Susan Eads was absent.
Clabes is trying to organize a meeting with the other communities in the middle of August to discuss possible partnerships.