Kansas City Outsourcing Animal Shelter Operations

Contrast the usual doom-and-gloom espoused by privatization critics with this: Kansas City has privatized its animal shelter to not only save $175,000 per year but also to improve service delivery and reduce euthanasia rates. Privatization critics so fond of over-the-top hyperbole (I’ve heard it all—privatization apparently hurts the poor, elderly, children, public employees, and just about everyone else) are REALLY going to hate the fact that KC is using privatization to save puppies and kittens:

In an effort to improve its animal control operation, the Kansas City Council voted Thursday to transfer management of the city’s animal shelter to a private veterinary corporation.

The council endorsed the plan to contract with Veterinary Management Corp., beginning March 1, to run the shelter at 4400 Raytown Road. The ordinance calls for five one-year renewal options, costing $608,000 per year.

“There are a lot of pluses,” said Councilwoman Cindy Circo, who spearheaded the effort to have the city partner with a private company to run the shelter. She predicted better animal control services in the neighborhoods and better care for animals in the shelter.

R. Wayne Steckelberg, a longtime veterinary veteran in the community, was awarded the contract..

Animal advocates, including Patti Glass, president of Wayside Waifs, also commended the move, saying it won’t be easy but it should reduce the number of animals that have to be euthanized.

Mike Schumacher, the city’s public safety liaison, said the city expects to save about $175,000 annually from what it was spending to run the shelter. The city can cancel the contract with 30 days’ notice if the partnership doesn’t succeed.

Schumacher said the goal is to reduce the euthanasia rate, increase adoptions from the shelter and improve investigation of dangerous animal cases. The city employees who worked in the shelter will be reassigned to other duties.

That’s quite a performance incentive–the ability to cancel the contract without cause with 30 days notice. The contractor will be effectively be performing without a net. Hence, the incentives to reduce costs and improve services are going to be strong.

Question of the day: why on Earth would any government hire public employees with public pensions and benefits to operate animal shelters when private companies and nonprofits do this sort of thing all the time for (at least) equivalent quality and lower cost?