Washington County animal shelter
Josh Warburton and Boba the kitten at PAWS Shelter in St. George. Boba is one of 15 kittens as well as 36 adult cats currently needing adoption.

There is no Washington County Animal Shelter. Washington County doesn’t have an animal shelter. Let’s just start there.

In county of around 160,000 people, that’s a sad fact.

For many years, it’s been talked about, but unfortunately we’ve seen very little action. Earlier this year, our current county commission finally put forth a plan to get it built. Since then, there have been but a few meetings and virtually no progress. This is at least partly because they’ve not come to the table with nearly enough funds to get it done. Currently, the county has committed to an initial outlay of $200,000 $250,000 of a $1 to $2 million project.

It’s been proposed that private donations and the local municipalities kick in the rest. The problem there is that the local nonprofits currently filling the gaps in care are already maxed out and are always looking for more donations to help take care of animals in need here in the county. I’ve been told that these nonprofits fear that if they encourage donations to the proposed Washington County Animal Shelter, they may not get their own much-needed funds to continue their work. So while most of them support a Washington County Animal Shelter from a philosophical point of view, there is concern that in the short term that fundraising effort may have a negative impact on them.

Similarly, the local municipal representatives I’ve talked to are hesitant to contribute any money from their already thin budgets. This has created a virtual stalemate for the project. On a long-term basis, agreements between the county and these municipalities can likely be worked out, where by my best estimates a mere 20 percent of the municipal shelter’s budgets contributed to the county would be more than enough to sustain it. That’s in exchange for what would amount to around 50 percent of their current workload being lifted by the county. The county would have the responsibility of medical care, inoculation, quarantine, housing, training, and rehabilitation while the existing municipal shelters would convert to being nothing more than intake facilities and adoption centers.

The reason for the immense savings are twofold.

Washington County animal shelterFirst, the economics of scale help to reduce overall costs of the care and training services by putting them all in one place. These services are currently spread out among five municipal shelters, and many costs are duplicated at those facilities.

Secondly, much of the labor at the proposed county animal shelter would be voluntary inmate labor from the adjacent Purgatory Correctional Facility. This type of program, utilizing qualifying inmates, has been proven effective to reduce operational costs and give the animals plenty of time and attention to get to where they are better housemates as well as give the inmates something to care for. Currently, stray and abandoned animals here are put up for adoption almost immediately and, sadly, often are not ready to be good additions to families.

With the proposed Washington County Animal Shelter in place, there would be virtually no time limit for rehabilitation and abundant inmate hours, so the proper attention and training could be given to each animal to bring them to their best state for adoption. Similarly, these programs, now widely used throughout the United States and beyond, are one of the most effective ways of giving inmates a goal to work towards and something to care and live for and helping them become productive citizens once released back into general population.

In summary, as a Washington County Commissioner, I plan to help bridge the gap in the current plan that is keeping this program from moving along by uniting private donors, calling on the municipals to step up, and — just as importantly — work at the county level to find the appropriate funds in the existing budget to get this much-needed Washington County Animal Shelter built.

Absentee and mail-in voting has now begun in many areas of Washington County. Click here to find your voting location and whether or not you vote by mail in your area. Early voting begins on Oct. 25, and Election Day is Nov. 8. Please support me by voting for me to be your next Washington County Commissioner, and let’s get this animal shelter built.

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