Many people are understandably upset with the Franklin County Humane Society and its manager right now. The incident with Copper was both a tragedy for one of our residents and a national embarassment for Frankfort. This tragedy has also exposed some much deeper problems with our local animal shelter. I've received numerous disturbing reports of the FCHS refusing to participate in fundraising and foster activities that could help curb their exceptionally high euthanasia rates. It's clearly time for local governments to hold the FCHS more accountable for the public funds they receive and to demand more oversight over local animal control. (For the record, the City gives the FCHS $55,000 annually. The $56,500 figure that others have cited mistakenly includes funds for Project Graduation).
At our City Commission meeting last Monday night, I expressed a willingness to withhold funding from the FCHS unless they take concrete steps to address their high euthanasia rate and their reticence to work with other community groups and concerned citizens. The City Solicitor (aka: the City attorney) informed us that we presently can't do anything because we have a contract with the Humane Society that prevents us from withholding funds. I have since learned that this is not true at all. Our last contract with the FCHS expired in 2009, and we currently have no formal obligation to fund them.
I've requested that the City Commission call a special meeting this Monday (Aug 2) in order to reexamine our relationship with the Humane Society. This is a complex problem that needs to be addressed in a timely fashion. I expect to hear back from the rest of the Commission by the time this letter is published, but as of now I don't know whether or not they'll agree to meet to discuss this. If the rest of the Commission does indeed agree to meet Monday, there should be an announcement in Sunday's paper.
We should negotiate a new contract with the Humane Society in order to formally obligate them to coordinate adoption, foster, spay/neuter and fundraising efforts with Lifehouse (a local no-kill animal rescue group) and other rescue organizations. This would go a long way towards reducing the unacceptable euthanasia rate in our County. City and County governments should also each appoint a representative to the Humane Society's board to provide more oversight and accountability. Of course, this incident should also underscore the importance of maintaining proper identification tags on all pets.
I appreciated board member Paul Brooker's presence at our most recent City Commission meeting, and I don't doubt that the folks who donate their time and energy to the local Humane Society mean well and want to do their best for our community and its animals. The FCHS board may have to make some tough decisions in order to regain the public's trust, but I'm hopeful that this crisis will ultimately have a positive impact on animal control in Franklin County.
Frankfort City Commissioner