As many of you know, since the beginning of the year, the ARL has limited the number of healthy stray animals we’ve accepted from municipalities who chose not to contract with us for animal control services. We can honestly say that it pained all of us deeply to not be able to provide solutions for those animals–and we know that it’s been a difficult year for you as well. We have listened to your concerns with sympathetic hearts and heard your pleas for help and we are making some changes to try and address them in creative ways that we hope will work.
As a charity, we throw ourselves heart first into this passion-filled, mission-based work, but being an almost free service for local governments is simply not financially sustainable for any organization. Animal control contracts simply ask local governments to pay fairly into a system that their residents use, much like paying police officers to keep our streets safe. Animal control is a very normal and typical annual budget line item in communities both large and small across the country, and these services protect both residents and animals from disease and danger, as well as so much more.
Please trust that we want to continue to provide a safe haven for animals in their time of greatest need and be the humane sheltering model you are asking of us–and please know that we are working hard to find creative solutions to bring in enough funding to accomplish that. Much like shelter fees, the funding from animal control contracts only partially pays for what it costs us to help the over 5,000 animals who pour through our doors annually, but is a vital piece of the puzzle since we receive no other state or county government funding at this time. We have substantial costs to meet the basic needs of the animals who enter our doors as sheltering is rarely a turnkey business with animals coming in one day and being adopted the next. Many animals stay with us for weeks–some for months. Nearly all require veterinary care, as well as food, housing and staff to care for and champion them until we can find them their second chances in loving homes.
Even though we believe that most people would gladly pay $2 once a year–or the cost of a cheap cup of coffee–for access to comprehensive and round-the-clock animal services when they need them, most municipalities in Berks have had difficulty adjusting to our request for sustainable funding. In 2018, although we did our best to make our case to municipal leaders as to why we needed greater support from them, we understand that we did not provide many of them with enough time to make adjustments in their budgets for this year. Well, we listened and we learned, and we’re offering contracts for 2020 that are 50% cheaper–just $1 per person–as we work closely with municipalities to find some new creative funding ideas and give them additional time to ramp up their budgets to accommodate our funding requests (which are well below the national average of $4-$6 per person). Additionally, for municipalities who feel that they can’t make that funding request work for next year to enter into a contract, we are also offering access to some emergency services so that animals do not need to suffer due to cruelty, neglect or hoarding.
Thankfully, we have also heard from residents in municipalities that do not have a contract with us that they’re personally willing to pay a modest amount when they find a stray animal to help us care for them, and for that we are grateful. Because the Humane Society of Berks County will be temporarily closing, we felt it was necessary to fast-track this policy change on November 1st so that residents have a local option to turn to. Like the Humane Society, we will ask residents in municipalities who do not hold an animal control contract with us to call us at 610-373-8830 to make an appointment and to donate a $50 fee to drop off a stray animal to help cover a small portion of the animal’s care. Because several Berks County municipalities and the City of Reading negotiated animal control contracts with us in 2019, space will be reserved for animals from those municipalities first, and residents from those communities can continue to drop off strays for no charge.
We hope that our renewed approach and spirit of compromise will give the residents of Berks County a sense of security and pride as both we and their municipalities work together to make our communities safe and humane places to live for both animals and their residents. If you’d like to learn more about what your municipality is considering for 2020, we encourage you to attend your local municipal meeting and share your thoughts and opinions with your local leaders.