Shelter in a storm

Raise your voice
The Butte Humane Society will hold a public meeting Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

People get passionate about pets. I know, because I am more than a tad overprotective of my Humane Society adoptee. News that the Chico Police Department is taking over the facility run by the Butte Humane Society has sent ripples—and rumors—through the city.

It will become a “kill shelter.”

It will only be open two weekdays.

Unclaimed pets will get shipped to other cities for adoption if they’re lucky and put to sleep if they’re not …

OK, OK … deep breath.

Truth is, no one knows exactly what’s going to happen—not the city, not BHS. Apart from the city’s declaration that CPD’s animal-control division will assume operational responsibilities in January, most issues remain unresolved.

We all should know a lot more after next Thursday (Aug. 17). That’s when the parties involved will sit down together—for the first time in months—and try to work out some details.

First and foremost is whether BHS will continue to play a role. In separate interviews Tuesday, both Assistant City Manager David Burkland and BHS Executive Director Cathy Augros said they want that to happen.

They also independently dispelled some misperceptions.

First, there’s the $34,000 question. The Butte County Grand Jury’s report said BHS requested an increase of $13,000 per month beyond its $21,000 monthly fee for handling the city’s legally mandated sheltering. In actuality, the proposal called for around $27,800 per month—$334,000 annually—including new compensation for vaccinations and parasite control.

Next, there’s the reasoning for the decision. The city wants a better handle on the operation—logistically, financially, informationally. Augros understands, though she points out, “If you have a toothache, are you going to go to dental school or go to a dentist? This is our business.”

BHS now has the shelter open daily, which Burkland said the city intends to continue.

Then there’s the euthanasia issue. “The city has no desire to have a kill shelter,” said Burkland, owner of two rescued dogs and two BHS-adoptee cats. Indeed, Augros said, “I don’t think the people of Chico will allow city government to take over the shelter without provisions for adoption.”

How adoptions get handled is the crux of the matter. After the mandated five-day sheltering period, will the city retain custody or transfer all the animals to BHS? If the former, who decides which are adoption-caliber? If the latter, will BHS get enough space to house them?

Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from the Paradise Animal Shelter—the pride of Police Chief Jerry Carrigan, lavishly praised by the grand jury. Carrigan’s animal-control officers oversee sheltering as well as adoption, aided by a corps of loyal volunteers. Ample funding comes from the town’s Measure N assessment. That two-pronged public support is key.

BHS clearly has a place in Chico. Is it at the city shelter or on its own? I’m inclined to say separate, but let’s wait a week before getting breathless.