Did you pick up this week’s City Paper? Here are the highlights.

James Nix of Nashville’s The City Paper recently did some impressive investigative reporting.  Nix details some of Metro Animal Care & Control’s questionable spending of funding intended for animal education and welfare programs in his article “With euthanasia rate high, some seek more spending for pet spay-neuter programs.”

Here are some highlights…

In 2009, Councilman Phil Claiborne and Councilwoman Karen Bennett co-sponsored a bill that increased daily animal boarding fees and set aside $3 of each boarding charged into an “animal education and welfare” fund….

…A breakdown of the items appearing in a MACC expense report shows that of the $27,800 collected in fund so far, the two biggest items include the installation of what officials described as a cat condo listed at $4,050 for the adoption are at the Harding Place facility, as well as a 55-inch television and digital media software server to display pictures of animals up for adoption as well as educational videos on responsible pet ownership, to be viewed by MACC customers in the lobby.

Metro also paid $1,649.77 to Francis Communications Inc. (including $690 for awareness bracelets) and $4,150 for custom printing from C Specialties Inc. for what Paul described as bracelets, leashes and magnets with the MACC contact information printed on them.

Also listed as expenses is a $450 charge from Art Pancakes Party & Wedding, for two costumes – a dog and a cat – worn by MACC employees at community events and when speaking to school children on how to be safe around animals and help take care of them.

We strongly encourage you to read the the article in its entirety.  Do you think Metro Animal Care & Control has demonstrated responsible stewardship of tax payer money?

Follow James Nix on Twitter —> @MistaNix

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ORDINANCE NO. BL2013-452 – UPDATE!

Many of you have heard our call to action and have written the Metro Council – the animals thank you!  We know many of you are receiving responses from Council members, assuring you that, with the passage of this bill, the Council still retains final approval of the Metro Public Health Department’s fee schedule and the dog license fee.

Because there seems to be some misdirection coming to Council members in the form of emails from the Department of Health, we feel the need to provide further clarification…

The dog license fee (which, as we all know, is essentially a tax paid by only responsible dog owners) is $4 per dog, as explicitly indicated in the Metro Code.  If the Council wishes to increase the fee, it would need to pass an ordinance (3 readings, requiring 3 votes).  We responsible dog owners are given more than 6 weeks (from the release of the first agenda to the third vote) to learn of the proposed increase and contact our duly elected representatives to express approval or disapproval.  This is a fair, transparent process.

Unrelated to the license fee, the Department of Health drafts its own fee schedule (for boarding fees, adoption fees, etc. – – – fees NOT levied on every dog owner), which passes before the Board of Health and then to the Council for adoption by resolution (requiring 1 vote).  The Council does NOT have the power to amend the fee schedule document – it can merely vote to approve or disapprove it. If the Council disapproves the fee schedule, it would then go back to the Department to be amended, then before the Board of Health, and back to the Council.

In short, what does this mean?

  • If this bill passes, the dog license fee will no longer be part of the Metro Code, and the Department of Health, not the Council, will originate all proposed increases.
  • It will take 1 vote from the Council – not 3 – to make such increases effective.
  • Because the fee schedule is an attachment included in the full agenda analysis provided only to Council members, we would never see it unless we requested a copy of this analysis from the Council office.  In other words, under this new process, it’s likely we responsible dog owners would never know a fee increase was being proposed.
  • Especially considering the Board of Health meets only monthly, it’s completely unrealistic to expect the Council would vote to reject the Department’s fee schedule and hold up the entire budget approval process.
  • This new process lacks transparency AND Council oversight.

If anyone tells you that you don’t have your facts straight, let them know that’s not the case.  Knowledge is power.

Keep writing – councilmembers@nashville.gov!

Call to action – we need your help!

ORDINANCE NO. BL2013-452 has been introduced to track with the Metro Public Health Department’s (MPHD) budget and is on third reading before the Metro Council on Tuesday, June 4th.  Typically, a bill like this would not be contentious.  Typically. 

Sure, the bill has some good bits.  If passed, it would allow Metro Animal Care & Control (MACC) to charge reduced fees to rescue groups that have been certified under MPHD policy [that doesn’t yet exist].  The Director of Health would also be given the power to waive fees for dogs impounded through no fault of the owner.

That’s great, but there’s some funny business going on here.  Bear with us – this is going get a bit wonky…

MPHD has requested a budget increase to hire three additional MACC field officers next year, and Director of Health Dr. Bill Paul has proposed the increase be funded by increasing license fees from $4 to $6.  Under current law we [responsible] dog owners must pay a license fee for each dog we own when we vaccinate our dogs for Rabies.  The current fee is $4 per dog, which is explicitly stated within the Metro Code of Ordinances:

Any person owning, keeping or harboring on the premises where they reside, any dog six months of age or over, shall pay to the chief medical director a fee of four dollars for each dog owned, kept or harbored.

Now, if Dr. Paul wants to increase license fees by $2, the simple thing to do would be to have the Council pass a bill that changes “four dollars” to “six dollars” in the Metro Code, right?   However, the bill up for a vote next week reads that we [responsible] dog owners “shall pay to the chief medical director a fee in accordance with the current fee schedule.”  This budget year the license fee amount listed on the proposed fee schedule is indeed $6.  However, the language referring to the fee schedule is troublesome because it allows MPHD to set license fees, rather than the Metro Council.  AND this money is NOT designated specifically for Metro Animal Care & Control or any particular purpose.  This money is made available for Metro Public Health Department’s budget.

What’s more, many other municipalities have enacted laws that direct money collected from license fees to spay/neuter programs. It is likely this will never happen in Nashville and Davidson County if this bill passes in its current form We have not championed the funding of spay/neuter programs at the forefront of our initiative, but it goes without saying that we recognize its importance.  The language in this bill is a step in the wrong direction.

YOU CAN HELP.

Email councilmembers@nashville.gov  (bcc: cccshelterreform@gmail.com), subject line: ORDINANCE NO. BL2013-452.

Use talking points like these (please don’t copy/paste!):

  • Recent reports from the Tennessean and Metro Public Health Department indicate that Metro Animal Care & Control used our tax dollars to kill more than 8,000 animals last year.
  • While I know Metro Animal Care & Control is understaffed and support adding three field officers, I do not support Metro Public Health Department having the power to raise fees on tax payers and responsible pet owners to fund its own agenda.
  • I want our elected representatives, not unelected government officials, to set dog license fees and decide how this money is used.
  • Please amend BL2013-452 to reflect the wishes of responsible pet owners.  The power to set dog license fees should remain with the Council.

Don’t forget to tell them the district in which you reside and vote! (Find your district here.)

Please forward this on to your friends, family, and colleagues, and ask them to do the same.  Bark on!

Welcome to our blog!

More than likely, you’re here because you signed the petition to reform Nashville’s Metro Animal Care & Control (MACC). And we thank you!

The petition advocates four major reforms that have proven successful in many other city-run animal shelters, AND these  reforms would have little to no fiscal impact.  They are as follows:

  • Establish a Rescue Program
  • Establish a Volunteer Program
  • Stop Breed-Specific Policies and Euthanasia (pending)
  • Raise Visibility of Impounded Animals

The City Paper published an article in January detailing MACC’s dismal outcomes…

INTAKES

  • Animals MACC officers picked up in the field: 3,378
  • Animals delivered to MACC: 5,999
  • Total intakes: 9,377

OUTCOMES

  • Euthanized: 7,179 (76%)
  • Adopted: 1,211 (12%)
  • Returned to owner: 553 (6%)
  • Relocated back to the wild: 96 (1%)
  • Transferred to rescue organizations: 95 (1%)

This news came as no surprise to us, but it was a surprise to many who call the nation’s “it city” home.  To date, more than 10,000 concerned citizens from Nashville, greater Nashville, and beyond have signed the petition to reform MACC.  These citizens have not only lent their name to the cause – many have attended town hall meetings and have volunteered their time, money, and/or expertise to help.  After all, Tennessee is the “volunteer state.”  With a passionately engaged community such as Nashville, all that is needed to achieve measurable, sustainable change in our local animal control facility is a commitment from our government officials.  We have met twice with Metro Public Health Department officials to date and have received no such commitment to change.

Over the coming weeks, we will be providing more information about these reforms – best practices, MACC’s current policies, etc.  We’ll also update you on any and all progress, so stay tuned!