- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2003

D.C. City Administrator John A. Koskinen said yesterday the city will formalize a contract within the next 10 days with a group that will run the city’s animal shelter.

The D.C. Department of Health took over the city’s animal shelter for the first time in 20 years yesterday, after the Washington Humane Society pulled out over a contract dispute with the city.

“We’ll have a contract ready for approval by the time the [D.C.] Council returns on Sept. 15,” Mr. Koskinen said. “We’re negotiating with the Humane Society and one other bidder. We’re not sure who it will be right now.”

Mr. Koskinen declined to identify the second bidder.

In the meantime, city health officials will run the shelter at 1201 New York Ave. NE. The Humane Society’s departure late Thursday night raised questions regarding the fate of about 80 animals under the group’s care.

But Mr. Koskinen said the changeover would not affect services. “There is no disruption,” he said. “All of the animals are being cared for.”

Mr. Koskinen said at least six of the Humane Society’s workers have agreed to help Health Department officials run the shelter until the dispute is resolved.

The Humane Society has been at odds with the Health Department, which supervises the society’s contract, several times since the 1980s, when the group began overseeing the shelter’s operations.

Despite increasingly bitter negotiations over the past year, Mr. Koskinen said city officials had not ruled out awarding a contract to the Humane Society.

“They did not have to leave the shelter,” Mr. Koskinen said, referring to the Humane Society’s decision to leave Thursday night. “That was their decision. We want to work with them.”

Humane Society officials said they want a long-term contract so they can improve staff, infrastructure and services. The shelter impounds about 13,000 animals a year.

“We’re getting short-term contract extensions of one week and one and two months at a time,” said Jody Huckaby, the Humane Society’s executive director. “How can I hire a staff and spend $150,000 to get new vans when I have to say that the contract is running out soon?

“We have people driving vans that shouldn’t be driven. The brakes squeak and the air conditioning in vans that are full of animals in the middle of summer doesn’t work,” Mr. Huckaby said.

However, city officials said they never insisted on such short-term contracts. Mr. Koskinen also said the Humane Society contentions focus on standard language that is written into most city contracts.

City government contracts routinely allow the city to terminate deals “at the convenience of the government,” Mr. Koskinen said. City officials were not willing to make an exception in the Humane Society’s case, he added.

“We have obligations to the other bidder as well as to the public,” Mr. Koskinen said. “We can’t have any city contractor making ultimatums during negotiations.”

Mr. Koskinen cited confidentiality rules in declining to reveal the identity of the organization bidding for the city’s $1.8 million per year animal control services. Mr. Huckaby said he had no information on the bidder.

“I don’t know who will end up with the contract,” Mr. Huckaby said. “I just hope that they’re qualified and the city gives them what they need to care for the animals.”

D.C. government has increased funding for animal control services from $1 million in 2000 to $1.8 million today, Mr. Koskinen said.

However, non-profit tax records show the Washington Humane Society lost nearly $800,000 last year. The organization spent $3.6 million while reporting revenues through government funding and private donations of $2.8 million, tax records show.

“If we were in it for the money, then we would have gotten out of the business of caring for animals long ago,” Mr. Huckaby said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide