Harrison County

Humane society promises supervisors a cost analysis of shelter

The Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport and the Harrison County supervisors have come to an agreement over support for the shelter.
The Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport and the Harrison County supervisors have come to an agreement over support for the shelter. jmitchell@sunherald.com

Harrison County supervisors approved a contract to pay the Humane Society of South Mississippi almost $15,000 a month to support the animal shelter in Gulfport that takes in stray dogs from the county.

The supervisors had consider waiting until Lori West, HSSM executive director, delivered more information requested by Supervisor Marlin Ladner about the fees that are collected for animals surrendered or reclaimed by owners. But the shelter’s contract with the county ended at the end of the September so supervisors unanimously agreed to approve it. They changed the termination clause from 180 days to 90 days to give the shelter time to get the cost analysis together.

“You’ll be happy with what you see,” West said.

In all, the contract calls for the county to pay about $180,000 in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

Ladner wanted to know how the charges pet owners incur at the shelter figured into the county’s fee. Last year, about 1,232 dogs from the county wound up in the shelter, which by Ladner’s calculations, cost the county $145 each. The county takes no cats to the shelter, West said. West said the cost per animal was the same for the cities. There are additional charges for animals that bite someone or are part of a court case.

Ladner said he had a neighbor who had to pay more than $400 to get a dog out of the shelter.

“I know because I called,” he said. “It would have been less if he would have conceded to have the dog neutered.”

West said fees start at $50 to reclaim an animal taken to the shelter. She said they also microchip those animals and charge $10 for a service that costs about $50 in the private sector. They also give unvaccinated dogs a rabies shot and charge $15. The market rate for that shot, she said, is $40-$50 for that vaccination.

“They maximum we charge is $300 for an animal that is intact, that means an animal that hasn’t been altered, neutered or spayed,” she said. “We are willing to work with people on an individual case-by-case basis (to negotiate the fee).

“(The higher) fees are punitive for individuals that are not necessarily animals you would want back on the street or owners who aren’t taking great care of their animals.”

She said under a county ordinance, animals that wind up in the shelter a third time are altered but that fee is “steeply steeply discounted” from the private sector.

Another man called him, Ladner said, and said the shelter wanted to charge him to turn in a litter of puppies dumped at the man’s home.

“How much are you receiving for those 1,232 dogs?” he asked. “I know you’re getting $145 from us but how much are getting for the reclaiming costs to the owners, or adoptions or whoever pays for those dogs?”

West say those fees charged to owners help keep the county’s costs down.

“There’s definitely a cost savings to keeping an organization like the Humane Society that we can be proud of when can say, ‘This is the organization we’re sending our animals to,’” she said. “I think that also is something we need to take into consideration.”

Paul Hampton: 228-896-2330, @JPaulHampton