Clearing misconceptions on dog control contract

January 10, 2013

In early 2012, the Kent County SPCA asked Levy Court Commissioners to approve a nearly 70 percent increase in the costs to provide dog control services in Kent County. The $1.34 million request was going to be very difficult given the county’s tight budget for 2012.

Before agreeing, commissioners asked for a seat at the SPCA budget table to review why the increase in funding was occurring. This request was denied and negotiations ended with commissioners agreeing to fully fund the current contract of roughly $800,000. The SPCA rejected the county proposal and resubmitted their $1.34 million request as the best final offer.

This cost-prohibitive proposal forced the county to seek alternate service providers. That is how Safe Haven became the dog control organization for Kent County.

Last month, the SPCA agreed to provide dog control services to Sussex County for $660,000. The contract was significantly less than the $1.34 million the SPCA required Kent County residents to pay. It is unclear why taxpayers living in a county half the size of Sussex have to pay twice the amount for essentially same service.

Recently, the director of the SPCA sent out a letter criticizing commissioners for not agreeing to their demands. I do not believe that the letter is a fair description of what transpired. I sincerely wished that an agreement would have been reached that allowed Levy Court and the SPCA to work together.

Ultimately, an agreement was not reached and we went in different directions. The simple truth is that the SPCA and Safe Haven can both do a lot of good in Kent County and continuing a public feud will not correct problems that exist right now.

Whether you support the county or the SPCA does not change the fact that Delaware code has multiple sections that need to be clarified. Today, if you have an animal problem, you call the state (SPCA). If you have a dog problem, you call the county (Safe Haven) unless it is an abused dog and then you call the state (SPCA). And, in all seriousness, if you have a cat problem, you are on your own.

The reality is that most residents do not differentiate the categories and simply want help when they need it.

One way to fix problem is to have state lawmakers simplify the code and put control under one roof. Focus on deleting or clarifying conflicting language that puts organizations at odds with one another. Without action from the state, I believe that the county and the SPCA will regrettably continue to be at odds and the ones suffering will ultimately be the animals we are trying to protect.

Eric Buckson
Levy Court Commissioner

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