The city of Eugene and Lane County are planning to do away with Lane County Animal Services (LCAS), sparking an outcry from local advocates for dogs, cats and other pets, who worry this could bring the county back to the days when thousands of stray pets were killed each year.
Lane County, Eugene and Springfield are forming an interagency task team to explore and develop a new model of service delivery for animal services, the county says.
LCAS is “one of the real success stories, one of the really shining examples of city-county partnership,” says Scott Bartlett, who serves on LCAS’s advisory committee. He is also the veteran of 16 years on the county’s Budget Committee. Bartlett says, “This new model thing in my mind is shallow, unsubstantiated and extremely risky to the animals.”
The proposal for animal control apparently arose out of the announcement by City Manager John Ruiz that Eugene was pulling $130,000 from LCAS’s budget, as well as county budget cuts.
According to Karen Gaffney, assistant director for county Health and Human Services, the county’s 25 percent across-the-board budget cut brought LCAS’s ability to “maintain critical services to animals and the community and continue to meet the community’s expectation for high live release rates” to the edge. Eugene’s funding cut “meant we needed to find a different way to deliver these services that could be financially sustainable.”
Gaffney says, “LCAS and the staff there have done terrific work, and the jurisdictions are committed to doing our best to ensure the same level of service is available moving forward.” She adds, “That is why we are redesigning the service delivery model rather than just eliminating more staff or services.”
Bartlett says that LCAS has made tremendous improvements in the past decade as a result of spay/neuter vouchers, increased licensing and using innovative techniques such as having an animal behaviorist work with dogs to resolve behavior issues that lead owners to give them up. LCAS recently fired its behaviorist due to budget cuts.
While once criticized for the numbers of animals that were euthanized for space issues, Bartlett says the LCAS has “through intense community oversight become one of Oregon’s most effective animal shelters.” He questions whether using a nonprofit shelter, such as Greenhill Humane Society, will allow the community that same sort of oversight.
One subcommittee of the LCAS advisory committee met specifically to give guidance on euthanasia. That committee included vets and seasoned animal volunteers. Bartlett says.
City officials discussed the proposal at a Feb. 28 meeting of the LCAS advisory committee. Committee members requested that they be added to the transition team in order to advise, pointing out that county and city staff members lacked expertise on animal service issues. Forty people attended the meeting, with 12 giving public comments on their concerns about the community would do without LCAS, and that there is no detailed plan in place. Animal advocates in the past have spurred change in how Lane County deals with its stray pets and say they will do so again.