Ending the neglect

How city government and the Butte Humane Society can work together

As Tom Gascoyne’s March 18 cover story, “A history of neglect,” shows, Chico’s animal shelter has serious problems. There are many reasons for this, beginning with the fact that the city and the Butte Humane Society once ran separate shelters. They merged in 1986, with the city providing the facility and the animal-control function and BHS running the shelter and its adoption services. The relationship has often been troubled, with disagreements over funding and policies.

Currently, the biggest problem is a lack of space. The cattery is overcrowded, and many of the dogs must be kept outside, even in the coldest months of winter. The BHS would like a new facility, but the city doesn’t have the funds to buy one and prefers to expand the current buildings. Plans reportedly are in the works to add 9,000 square feet of indoor space, bringing the total to 15,000 square feet—that is, when funding is available.

This seems reasonable to us, given the city’s current financial condition. But it should be just the beginning of an effort to transform the shelter. For instance, one of the keys to decreasing the need for a larger shelter is an effective, low-cost spay/neuter program, which Chico lacks.

An idea currently floating around is to have the city, which already is responsible for upkeep and maintenance of the shelter, take over its day-to-day management, and for the BHS to be responsible for adoption services and the spay/neuter program. The idea deserves consideration: The city is better organized managerially, while BHS members have the passion to find homes for animals and see that they are neutered. This would also free up the BHS board to do more fund-raising and community outreach.

But it would require the city and the BHS to sit down and agree on common goals, including a shared commitment to minimizing euthanasia. This would go a long way toward eliminating the divisiveness that has plagued the relationship.

All Chicoans want an animal shelter that reflects this community’s compassion and commitment to animal welfare. It’s time to work together to create one.