Recently, a statement from certain non-contracted municipalities was released regarding our negotiations for animal control contracts, which stated some inaccuracies that we addressed with the municipalities over the course of the past four months. I’d like to take a moment to clear a few points in this statement, which was released collectively from certain municipalities who chose not to take our contract:
First, the letter states that “they sought clarity around several issues including the fee structure, the invoicing structure, the financial condition of the ARL, the data being used to estimate anticipated fees, the scope of the services offered, as well as legal concerns around the proposed contracts.” At the time that we released the contract in September, we set two dates at the shelter for municipal leader meetings to clarify the new fee structure and to answer any questions. We had only a handful of municipal leaders attend these meetings. Further, I made myself available and attended all municipal meetings I was invited to discuss the new contract with municipal leaders and citizens. I also attended two multi-municipal meetings at Albright College’s Center for Excellence in Local Government, and encouraged anyone with questions or concerns to contact me directly.
Secondly, the letter states that the ARL had proposed to charge on the basis of the zip code from where an animal was acquired. In the past, the ARL collected intake data based upon zip code; however, with the new contracts, we understood that we had to be more specific and accurate in collecting the animal’s exact location at the time of pick up to ensure it was registered to the correct municipality. Those concerns were addressed early on in the contract negotiations, and the ARL agreed to stop collecting intake data based upon zip code and change it instead to GPS coordinates/tax parcel to ensure the correct municipality was charged.
Thirdly, the ARL, consistent with IRS regulations, annually publishes its financial information. Our most recent Form 990 is available on our website here: https://www.berksarl.org/about-us/form-990s/.
Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, the ARL at no point made any changes to changing its handling of viscous dogs. We will continue to handle vicious dogs if we are contracted as the municipality’s animal control provider, and clarified any misunderstanding that the municipalities had in an email to them last week.
Lastly, the ARL has been incredibly responsive to hearing the municipal concerns. We have responded promptly and attended all meetings we were invited to—as well as had multiple meetings here at the ARL for municipal leaders to attend to gain clarity on the contracts, and we welcomed individual meetings. Further, we also offered municipalities who did not want to contract with us educational meetings to learn more about animal control and give them tips on how to handle this important service on their own. We offered municipalities two contract options after several expressed budget uncertainty with our initial fee-for-service contract. We then offered municipalities the option to opt-out of the contract with 30 days’ notice—or opt-in at any point during the year. In short, we have done everything we reasonably could to make sure we could continue to care for the abandoned and unwanted animals in the county—but to begin to receive modest and equitable compensation for our services. Nineteen municipalities in our county—or 26%—were not giving the ARL a dime to handle animal control, and most were only giving us about $1,000 a year, forcing our organization to fundraise not less than $900,000 a year to cover our losses by providing these services. We were not asking the municipalities to cover our expenses—not by a long shot—but we were asking them to pay a more reasonable amount to provide this essential service, consistent with how others in the state and nationally are compensated.
As always, I am available for your questions or concerns.