A humane end?

As part of a plan to share resources, the town of Paradise has submitted a proposal to house and feed Chico’s lost and unwanted animals. But if the city accepts the proposal, the Butte Humane Society shelter will probably have to close.

Since about 1987, the city of Chico has contracted with the Humane Society to care for the dogs and cats picked up by Animal Control officers. But because of a new regional approach to dealing with tight municipal budgets, city officials are looking at ways to share resources and make cuts wherever they can.

Since Paradise runs its own shelter, town officials are hoping to save Chico some money (and in the process make a little for Paradise) by charging about $10,000 a month to house Chico’s animals instead of the $16,000 a month Butte Humane currently charges.

But the plan has a snag or two. First off, the Paradise shelter is too small to house the approximately 3,000 animals handled every year by the Humane Society, so the city would have to pay undisclosed, up-front construction costs to expand the Paradise shelter. And while the Butte Humane Society does not, under normal circumstances, euthanize healthy animals to free up space, the Paradise shelter does.

“I don’t know how the Paradise shelter is going to do what they say they’re going to do with the money they’re asking for,” said Butte Humane Society Executive Director Kathy Augros. “That shelter, when it’s at capacity, will euthanize to have space. With a greater influx of animals, I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Augros said she was also puzzled as to why Chico would spend money to help renovate the Paradise shelter when “they never spent any money on us.”

The shelter’s contract with the city runs out June 30, although negotiations to extend that contract are ongoing. The society recently bought 20 acres of land off Highway 99 to build a new shelter, but plans for that facility are nowhere near complete. Augros said it was too early in the game to panic about the shelter closing but added that she was concerned that fewer Chicoans would adopt animals if it meant they had to drive to Paradise to do so.

Paradise Town Manager Chuck Rough said he doubted that would be the case, noting that the Paradise shelter is only about 10 minutes’ drive from Chico. Included in the proposal is a mandate to extend the hours of the Paradise shelter from 10 to 30 hours a week and to buy a portable building outfitted with 12 new kennels to house the new arrivals. The Chico shelter operates 43 hours a week, which is part of the reason it charges more than the Paradise shelter would.

The proposal will likely be decided upon during upcoming City Council budget debates.