The only animal shelter serving Eugene/Springfield will lose 56 percent of its funding from the city of Eugene, according to a contract starting July 1. Under this new contract, Greenhill Humane Society will be unable to take in any other animal the city of Eugene brings to the shelter besides dogs.
Greenhill’s contract with Eugene is what gives the nonprofit the authority to take in animals where it would otherwise be prohibited to do so. For example, cats would normally not be able to be taken in by Greenhill until 90 days have passed, in accordance with Oregon property law; however, Greenhill Executive Director Cary Lieberman says the contract lets them bypass this requirement.
When posting unfilled contracts, the city issues a request for proposals (RFP), which allows any outside entity to bid for the contract that is within 70 miles of the city. The newest RFP for Public Animal Shelter and Welfare Services was closed to bidders on April 12. Greenhill, which has been contracting for the city since 2012, submitted the only proposal for this two-year-long contract.
Greenhill provides a variety of functions for the city of Eugene. The humane society holds animals that are involved in court cases; performs surgeries, spaying and neutering operations; and reconnect lost pets with their owners. Lieberman says that even when a pet has been impounded they don’t charge the owner an impound fee, especially if that person is homeless. “What they would be doing by changing the contract here is eliminating that possibility,” Lieberman says.
“What the city’s RFP is saying is that they no longer want to pay for citizens to be able to bring in stray cats [from Eugene] to a shelter,” Lieberman says. Under this RFP the only person who can bring cats in will be the single animal welfare officer in Eugene.
This new contract will also not cover services for rabbits, tortoises, chickens, ducks, ferrets, hamsters, guinea pigs, snakes and rats.
According to Councilor Emily Semple, the cuts are part of a wave of budget cuts to every department for the upcoming fiscal year. She says the cuts are in response to rising inflation, costs and wages. “Every department scored down by 10 percent,” Semple says. “Everybody’s gonna get hammered. Greenhill is just an example.”
The city published its adopted budget for the fiscal year 2023 online at Eugene-or.gov/106/Budget. A public virtual meeting discussing the upcoming budget is April 26.
This new contract, which cuts Greenhill’s funding from the city from $481,062 to a maximum of $207,966.50, will force Greenhill to cut some of its services that benefit Eugene residents. Eugene will also be losing one of its two animal welfare officer positions. This will reduce Eugene’s animal welfare team from three to two, including a supervisor.
Lane County Animal Services Advisor Committee Chairman Scott Bartlett says the decision to drastically cut services is unconscionable. “The people, their companion animals and animals in general, are going to suffer,” Bartlett says, “There better be some public hearings on this.”
The city’s new contract will make up about 8 percent (down from 15 percent) of Greenhill’s total budget, though 37 percent of all animals who enter the shelter are from Eugene. “Historically, the amount the city has been giving us hasn’t been covering the costs,” Lieberman says.
According to Lieberman, 66 percent of Greenhill’s funding comes from private donations, including $7 million for its current campus built in 2020. Greenhill also holds contracts with Springfield, Cottage Grove, Veneta and Lane County.
Lieberman says Eugene’s new RFP will be requesting a scope of service that won’t be possible with the current allotment of funding. Eugene still wants Greenhill to hold adoptions, spaying, neutering and a full veterinarian clinic seven days a week.
Greenhill is always pushing to care for animals who otherwise wouldn’t be cared for, according to Lieberman. He says animals who are neglected, abused or stray all get high levels of care and consideration at the humane society.
Lieberman says a high level of service won’t be possible under the new RFP. While adoption services won’t be hurt, providing animals with care will be a challenge for Greenhill. The dollar amount “is low enough to seriously make us question whether or not it’s even possible to do the work,” Lieberman says. “If the city of Eugene chooses this path, we may focus more on adoptions and helping other communities with their overpopulation problems.”