Non-Profit Partnerships for Animal Shelters Grow

Subsection of Annual Privatization Report 2013: Local Government Privatization

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Non-Profit Partnerships for Animal Shelters Grow

Elected officials continue to look to leverage public-private partnerships (PPPs) with nonprofit groups to provide animal service delivery, a phenomenon covered extensively in Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report 2011.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Approximately 10 years ago Oklahoma City faced a major budget crisis. Then-Mayor Mick Cornett reached out to private partners to improve outcomes at the city’s animal shelter, in light of fiscal challenges to core priorities in the city budget. For example, the animal shelter’s live release rate was at a paltry 25 percent, despite receiving a $4 million annual budget.

Christy Counts formed the Central OK Humane Society (she is president of the group today), which captured the attention of national groups leading to $2 million in financial support from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The shelter has since flourished thanks to a spectrum of additional partnerships with PetSmart Charities among others.1 According to national ASPCA President Ed Sayres:

The public-private partnership gives the most leverage to everybody’s assets… You’re really not looking at individual assets anymore, but animals.2

Private capital allowed new infrastructure, like quarantine facilities, to be built while new programming for community outreach developed. Ten years later the live release rate has skyrocketed to 60 percent and is expected to continue to rise to 75 percent by the end of 2013.3

Memphis, Tennessee: Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report 2011 reported on a decade-long controversy over operations at the Memphis Animal Shelter that peaked in 2009 after a puppy died from “nonaccidental starvation” according to a veterinarian’s report. The Commercial Appeal reports, “Former shelter director Ernest Alexander, shelter veterinarian Dr. Angela Middleton and Tina Quattlebaum, an administrative supervisor, were indicted on aggravated cruelty to animals charges, a Class E felony that carries a sentence of one to six years in prison.”4

Outrage boiled into protests in support of privatizing the facility, which has an annual budget of $3 million and handles over 14,000 animals each year, but these calls for privatization have failed to materialize. The city issued a request for proposals (RFP) on December 19, 2011 but rescinded it after bidders failed to attend a mandatory pre-proposal meeting on January 12, 2012. The hastily conducted procurement led critics of the department to question whether or not it was intentionally rushed to prevent bidders from participating.5 Instead, the city plans on continuing public ownership and operation.

Yolo County, California: Yolo County’s Local Agency Formation Commission requested a report by the Animal Protection League to see if animal services could be provided in a more efficient, cost-effective way. Meanwhile, activists have taken issue with the high kill rate at the shelter because approximately half the animals taken into the shelter are euthanized.6

The top recommendation in the report is to privatize animal services, either through a joint powers authority (a form of public-public partnership) or by contracting out to a local nonprofit group. The report finds that under a joint powers authority the county could get a lot more for its roughly $1.9 million animal services budget, including 31 equivalent full-time employees, improved volunteer engagement, better licensing fee collection and concentrated focus on grant application. Activists want to improve the live release rate from its current rate, 55 percent, up to 90 percent. The Board of Supervisors supported privatization and they are expected to take up the reform in 20137.

Josephine County, Oregon: Officials in Josephine County are conducting a procurement to privatize operations and animal adoptions services at a shelter in Merlin, Oregon. Voters defeated a tax levy in May 2012, so officials considered instituting a new policy that would have euthanized dogs after three days and rejected cats entirely. Community outrage brought privatization into the conversation. County Commissioner Simon Hare says a coalition nonprofit group appears likely to take over, while the county will retain control over animal protection services in line with the county charter.8

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1 Michael Kimball, “Oklahoma City Animal Shelter strives to continue improving live release rate,” NewsOK, March 25, 2012.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Linda A. Moore, “Memphis gets no offers on requests for privatizing city animal shelter,” The Commercial Appeal, January 19, 2012.

5 Hannah Sayle, “Public Option: City closes animal shelter privatization bid for lack of interest,” Memphis Flyer, January 26, 2012.

6 Anne Ternus-Bellamy, “Supervisors show support for privatizing animal services,” The Davis Enterprise, September 12, 2012.

7 Don Frances, “Bolstered by study, reform sought for Yolo animal services,” Daily Democrats, September 12, 2012.

8 Travis Koch, “Josephine to privatize county animal shelter,” NBC5, September 28, 2012.