By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Expansion of the Jefferson County Animal Shelter may be in the works if the City of Salem accepts an agreement proposed by Jefferson County officials.
During Monday's meeting of the Jefferson County Board, a three-year agreement was approved for the county to house unwanted pets on behalf of the city of Salem. The agreement has been forwarded to Salem officials to consider, which will be taken up during Monday's Salem City Council meeting, according to City Manager Bill Gruen.
Salem officials had its own facility until the recent retirement of a local veterinarian. Gruen said the city has a contract with an individual to pick up stray dogs and cats, but added, "We have no reliable place to put them."
Jefferson County Chairman Robert White said negotiations with Salem began following conversations with Marion County officials, who are also considering its options for animal control. Marion County currently has an agreement with the City of Centralia, which is in place until the end of the fiscal year on Nov. 30. Jefferson County entered negotiations with Salem and Marion County when it became competitive with Centralia's rates.
"Our only commitment is for their (Salem) overflow," White said. "We need to find out how much it would cost to house additional animals and consider whether it would be cost effective to expand." White said the agreement with Salem is on a per animal charge, with guaranteed monthly minimums.
White added if any expansion occurs it would have to go through the City of Mt. Vernon since it shares the cost to run the Animal Shelter.
"We basically are going to be the facility either to locate the original owner or to find homes for the unclaimed animals," said Martin Boykin, animal control supervisor. Boykin said under current conditions, the Jefferson County facility will be hard pressed to take on another county.
Gruen said the Salem Council will have to decide if they are interested in helping Jefferson County expand or "there is an option that it may be more cost effective for us doing it on our own."
"We probably couldn't handle another county, especially this time of year," Boykin said. "We're crunched for space. In early fall and winter we may have available spaces but this time of year we stay full."
Jefferson County has up to 36 kennels for dogs and about 25 for cats. If pets are unclaimed for seven days they go up for adoption. Boykin said the local facility works with several no-kill rescue facilities in finding legitimate homes for the pets.
"We have a very good adoption rate, and we get several dogs out a month. Right now we can handle what we receive, but anything new might be questionable," he said.