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Huckelberry hardball: 'Pay this bill or we'll kill these dogs'
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Huckelberry hardball: 'Pay this bill or we'll kill these dogs'

Tucson officials refusing to pay improvement charges

  • This smiling pup was at PACC in November 2013, so we're pretty sure he's not at risk.
    PACCThis smiling pup was at PACC in November 2013, so we're pretty sure he's not at risk.
  • National Lampoon famously mock-threatened a dog on a 1973 magazine cover.
    National Lampoon famously mock-threatened a dog on a 1973 magazine cover.

Pima County fired back at Tucson on Wednesday, with a Chuck Huckelberry memo that's reminiscent of a 1973 National Lampoon cover. The county administrator said if the city doesn't want to pay more for the Animal Control Center, then Tucson can choose to put strays to sleep — and hire someone to do it.

City officials have balked at an increased bill for their share of the operation costs of the county-run animal shelter. The county billed Tucson just under a million dollars more this year than last, attributing the $780,000 increase to an expanded facility and a tripling of the number of spay/neuters performed.

Tuesday, Joyce Garland, Tucson's budget director, sent county officials a letter stating that the city considers many of the charges as falling outside the intergovernmental agreement that covers the shelter.

"The city does not have budget contingency to cover additional expenditures; therefore, the billed amounts for the above items will not be paid to the county," she wrote.

In response, Huckelberry instructed county officials to develop a new policy for stray animals picked up within the city limits:

Recently, some jurisdictions have voiced concerns over their share of these increased costs. These increased costs are primarily driven by the County's decision to pursue a noneuthanasia policy for the care of animals. Our decision will remain unchanged...

Municipalities should be given the opportunity to choose a less costly option; therefore, please develop a euthanasia option for municipalities. Such a policy would mean that animals taken or received from a certain municipal jurisdiction would be euthanized at the earliest possible time pursuant to the existing County policy and state law regarding such. ...

Choosing a euthanasia policy would allow the municipality to avoid the spay/neuter fees embedded in our operating costs. In addition, kennel space requirements would be reduced, as would medical care expenses, thereby reducing their costs. If the municipality chooses this option, I would ask they train one or more of their staff in ·euthanasia practices, as I do not desire to place on our staff the increased emotional burden of carrying out additional euthanasia.

Finally, municipalities do have the option to operate their own independent animal care facilities. We would certainly assist any jurisdiction that would want to be responsible for its own animal care services.

Pima County has been increasing the number of animals given veterinary treatment, rather than quickly euthanizing animals who are sick or injured. That has led to PACC releasing 68 percent of incoming animals to adoption and animal rescue groups from June 2013-June 2014. That's up from 48 percent in June 2012. Not counting animals whose owners request euthanasia, the shelter is now releasing 78 percent of animals.

But county officials say costs have also risen, with the spay-neuter program increasing from $200,000 to $600,000. The county sent the city a bill that included $238,000 for its share of constructing a large kennel tent, along with $200,000 for overhead, $95,000 for ongoing kennel costs and a $247,000 charge for the spay-neuter program.

Under a two-year contract that runs through next June, the county can raise rates paid by the city for PACC operations. But, the agreement says it "shall be subject to any limitations of budget law" — a clause cited by Garland as she noted that the city has already adopted its fiscal year 2015 budget.

Garland said that the "unanticipated expenses related to the Pima Animal Care Center have been allocated to the city with little to no input from city staff or from the city's Mayor and Council."

Garland also said the county should not release feral cats inside the city limits under its new "Trap, Neuter, Return" program, as the City Council has not yet had the opportunity to review the program.

County officials said that effectively ends the TNR program, as the source of a grant to support it has indicated that the county must neuter feral cats within the city to receive the funding.

Last month, the county partnered with an nonprofit called Best Friends and PetSmart Charities to trap, neuter and then release stray cats. The $1.5 million program would have been partially supported with a grant. The county would have spent $600,000 to fund the spay or neuter surgeries performed by local partners, such as Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic and the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. $247,000 of the bill sent to the city was for the TNR program.

Garland's letter

  • September 23, 20 14
  • Mr. Foid K. Janes
  • Chief of External Affairs
  • Pima County Health Department
  • 3950 S. Country Club, Suite 100
  • Tucson, Arizona 85714

Dear Mr. Janes,

Within the past year Pima County has implemented several changes to the provision of animal care services that have affected the City of Tucson. Specifically, unanticipated expenses related to the Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) have been allocated to the City with little to no input from City staff 0 1' from the City's Mayor and Council. These expenses include: increases in the allocation of County administrative overhead costs; the costs of a tent expansion at the PACC shelter; a cost increase related to the County's spay/neuter program; and the costs related to the implementation of a new County cat program.

ALLOCATION OF COUNTY ADMINISTRATIVE OVERHEAD COSTS In October 20 13, City staff was informed that County administrative overhead costs would be billed to the PACC effect ive July 1, 2013 and these costs would be included in the PACC expenses billed to the City. This notification occurred well into the City's 2014 fiscal year and the financial impact to the City was estimated at approximately $200,000 annually. The County's administrative and support services are within the County 's general fund, which is funded by property taxes. The administrative cost is not a direct operational expense of PACC and is not a reimbursable expense under Section I I of the Intergovernmental Agreement.

SHELTER EXPANSION COSTS On November 5, 2013 the Pima County Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved the County Administrator's recommendation to provide additional kennel capacity at the PACC. Part of the recommendation was to recover the costs of the expansion from the particip ating jurisd ictions in FY 20 IS. The financ ial impact to the City is $238,049.85 for the tent construct ion and $94,809.65 for kennel and administrative costs in FY 2014. In future fisca l years the financial impact is estimated at $138,200. According to County staff: (i) the County 's general fund was initially used to construct and equip the tent facility; (ii) the equipment, concrete pad, and utilities installed for the tent shelter are planned to be part of the new shelter included in the County's November bond initiative; and (iii) the County intends to reuse the tent elsewhere in the County once it is removed from service at the PACC. The tent construction is a capital expenditure of the County and not an operating expense of the PACC and is not a reimbursable expense under Section I I of the Intergovernmental Agreement.

COUNTY SPAY/NEUTER PROGRAM COSTS In June 2014, City staff was informed that the County was increasing its spay/neuter pro-gram budget by $380,000 in FY 2015. The financial impaot to the City was estimated at $247,000. The notification occurred after the City had adopted its FY 2015 budget. Section 12 of the Intergovernmental Agreement states "This Agreement and all obligations upon the City or County arising therefrom Shall be subjeot to any limitations of budget law or other applicable local law or regulations"; notification of the above items occurred after the City had adopted its budget for the fisoal year. Arizona Revised Statutes does not allow a city 01' town to revise its adopted budget to increase total expenditures. The City does not have budget contingency to cover additional expenditures; therefore, the billed amounts for the above items will not be paid to the County,

COUNTY TRAP/NEUTER/RETURN CAT PROGRAM On August 5, 2014 the BOS adopted a County cat program. The Intergovernmental Agreement does not contemplate a Trap/Neuter/Return program in either the provision of services 01' in the reimbursable cost of enforcing the City Animal Control Ordinances. The program should not be conducted in the City limits. City staff also received a Pima Animal Care Center Shelter Service Update and City Code Amendment Request dated July 30, 2014, just a few days before the action taken by the BOS. The letter requested that the City consider making the following changes.

1) Change Tucson Code Section 4-12, Disposition of Animals, to allow the Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) to release City pets to rescue organizations and healthy free roaming cats to organizations that practice humane Trap, Neuter, and Return (TNR) programs. This request will be brought to the Mayor and Council for their consideration,

2) Change Tucson Code Section 4-99, Impoundment Time, Notice and Costs, to reduce the number of days that an impounded, licensed dog must be held by PACC from seven days to five days. This request will be brought to the Mayor and Council for their consideration.

3) Favorably consider the County's proposed plan to amend Pima County Code Section 6.04.100.B, Pima County Animal Care Advisory Committee Membership, to remove the City of Tucson as a member ofthe Advisory Committee. City staff recognizes the important role that is carded out by the Pima Animal Care Advisory Committee in advising County and City staffand the County BOS. Therefore, Turge the County to maintain the City's permanent membership on this committee. The City will appoint a reliable Tucson Police Department representative and a budget office representative to the Committee ill order to make recommendations on enforcement and to prepare for budgetary changes affecting the City.

The City and County have generally experienced a collaborative relationship regarding animal care and enforcement. However, the manner in which these recent changes were implemented by the County is a cause for concern. Thank you for your attention to these matters as they relate to the City.

Sincerely,

Joyce K. Garland

Program Director Budget and Internal Audit

  • cc: Mr. C.H. Huckelberry, County Administrator
  • Martha Durkin, Interim City Manager
  • Albert Elias, Assistant City Manager
  • Kelly Gottschalk, Assistant City Manager/CFO
  • Mike Rankin, City Attorney

Huckelberry's memo

  • Date: September 23, 2014
  • To: Jan Lesher Deputy County Administrator for Medical and Health Services
  • Dr. Francisco Garcia, Director Health Department
  • From: C.H. Huckelberry
  • County Administrator

Re: Pima Animal Care Center Cost to Municipalities

As you know, based. on Board of Supervisors and staff leadership, the County has invested a significant amount of new resources in the Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) to make it a more humane facility, reversing the euthanasia rate within two to three years. This is a result of the investments the Board has been wi!ling to make. I firmly believe our investments have been well made and that our policy of non-euthanasia is the best and most humane response to this issue.

Recently, some jurisdictions have voiced concerns over their share of these increased costs. These increased costs are primarily driven by the County's decision to pursue a noneuthanasia policy for the care of animals. Our decision will remain unchanged and we will continue to incur these costs over and above what has previously been spent by the County on animal care functions.

Municipalities should be given the opportunity to choose a less costly option; therefore, please develop a euthanasia option for municipalities. Such a policy would mean that animals taken or received from a certain municipal jurisdiction would be euthanized at the earliest possible time pursuant to the existing County policy and state law regarding such. This would allow certain costs to be reduced for municipalities for the provision of animal care services. While this is not a policy I would recommend for the County, it should be an option available to municipalities. When you have the basic outline of such a policy, please ask the Animal Care Advisory Committee to review it before we ask the Board of Supervisors for direction.

Choosing a euthanasia policy would allow the municipality to avoid the spay/neuter fees embedded in our operating costs. In addition, kennel space requirements would be reduced, as would medical care expenses, thereby reducing their costs. If the municipality chooses this option, I would ask they train one or more of their staff in ·euthanasia practices, as I do not desire to place on our staff the increased emotional burden of carrying out additional euthanasia.

Finally, municipalities do have the option to operate their own independent animal care facilities. We would certainly assist any jurisdiction that would want to be responsible for its own animal care services.

CHH/anc

c: The Honorable Chair and Members, Pima County Board of Supervisors

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