DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — With Dickson County officials looking for alternative solutions with regard to animal control, the Humane Society of Dickson County (HSDC) turned to social media to notify community members about the situation.
On Thursday, Feb. 2, the HSDC announced it is not serving in an animal control capacity for Dickson County anymore, but said it would continue to serve and support the City of Dickson’s animal control operation.
According to the organization, in 2019, the HSDC entered a three-year pilot agreement to provide both the county and the city with custodial, medical, and adoption services for the animals taken in by the government agencies.
The HSDC described its objective as providing these important, as well as mutually beneficial, animal welfare services on a contractual basis.
“Initial numbers of animals to be served were loose estimates that grew exponentially in years two and three,” the humane society stated. “Our costs to provide these services increased substantially in the last two years and as a non-profit, we need to ensure that we are not supplementing county or city budgets at the expense of the greater animal community that we serve, as well as, even more importantly, the Mission on which the HSDC was founded on.”
HSDC officials said they proposed revised fees for services provided — based on actual costs — to leaders in both Dickson County and the City of Dickson in the third and fourth quarters of 2022.
The city administrator and the Dickson City Council voted unanimously to have HSDC continue caring for animals in need, not only agreeing with the organization’s increased service fee, but retroactively paying the increase for 2022, according to the humane society.
However, Dickson County officials reportedly decided to return to warehousing animals at the HSDC’s former Eno Road site.
“HSDC leadership finds this extremely disappointing on many levels with quality of animal care concerns, euthanasia policy for overcrowding and after hour coverages are our greatest concerns. Regardless, as a non-profit, we are not in a financial position to provide services to Dickson County at a significant loss,” the HSDC said in Thursday’s statement. “The increase we asked for was to cover minimum costs associated with caring for an additional 575+ County animals annually, many of which required more medical care, were less adoptable without significant, long-term socialization and training; all of which contributed toward long-term boarding and training expenses prior to adoption.”
While replying to a Facebook comment, the organization said the City of Dickson, which provides 23% of the animals at HSDC, pays $60,000 per year for animal control.
Meanwhile, Dickson County animal control brings in more than 500 animals to the HSDC each year, representing nearly 40% of the animals taken to the shelter, and the humane society said it requested $150,000 from the county to cover the costs.
According to shelter officials, the original cost for the service was $35,000, which was raised to $45,000 after one year, but now that they have two years of hard data about the number of animals coming in from Dickson County, they said $150,000 seemed like a fair and equitable request.
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The humane society provided contact information for the Dickson County commissioners, urging community members to share their opinions with officials in a respectful and professional way, saying, “We do not believe that the county commissioners were aware of the specifics of the negotiations or animal control conversations with county officials.”
News 2 spoke with Dickson County Mayor Bob Rial, who shared the following message that was sent to the Dickson County commissioners:
“The Humane Society has posted a notice to have each of you contacted about Dickson County’s support for the organization.
This past summer, directly after the beginning of the fiscal year, Sheriff Eads and I were approached by the board chair and others about increasing our support for the organization.
The request was to increase our payment from $45,000 a year to $150,000 a year, a 333% increase.
The Sheriff and I vowed to work with them. The Sheriff wanted to do research on how other animal control units operate across the state.
He was completing his work when we received a notice in October that the Humane Society was considering canceling their agreement with the county. In November we received a notice from the Humane Society that they were exercising their 60 day right to cancel their agreement with Dickson County. This agreement was entered into by the County and the Humane Society to provide compensation to the Humane Society in exchange for the Humane Society accepting animals picked up by the Sheriff’s animal control officer(s).
At that point we had an emergency meeting with various county officials to come up with a temporary solution to meet the challenging timeline we were given.
The quickest and most humane way we could address this situation was to re-institute the County’s former Animal Control Building. Sheriff Eads is in the process of putting together plans that will serve as a long-term solution for animal control without being at risk of a similar disruption by the decision of a local organization in the future.”
The mayor said efforts were made to revamp the old shelter as part of a temporary solution for housing animals, but he is looking forward to hearing the sheriff’s ideas for long-term animal control services moving forward.