The Dickson County sheriff and mayor recently presented three options for animal control following a public separation with the local humane society that’s now in a possible negotiation stage.
The partnership ended — at least for the time being –—after county government and Humane Society of Dickson County leadership seemingly reached an impasse in recent months over the animal control costs.
The county paid the nonprofit $45,000 annually the last two years but was asked to pay $150,000 going forward. Humane Society Humane Board President Carrie Parker Peery said housing more than 500 animals annually “was costing the HSDC substantially more than the county was paying.”
They anticipated the county and city wouldn’t be able to pay “what it costs per animal,” Peery said.
“But we did not expect this on the scale of where we were finding ourselves with the huge numbers of animals,” Peery said.
Sheriff Tim Eads presented the options to the county commission at its Feb. 21 meeting.
Old jail house, new facility possibilities
The first option was keeping the current arrangement and paying the humane society the amount requested.
A second option Eads presented was to renegotiate the humane society arrangement. Using animal intake and cost data the humane society posted on Facebook, the sheriff concluded the county could propose $98,000 annually. That offer would include the shelter finding space for all animals.
“If we negotiate a higher rate, if I bring you an animal, you gotta take it,” Eads said.
The final option was the sheriff’s office take over all county animal control and then identify an animal shelter location. In this scenario, the county would save about $50,000 annually, primarily by using county jail inmates for staffing, Eads said.
“The cleaning, the feeding, the exercising, the other stuff these employees are doing, I can do that with inmate labor,” Eads said. “That’s how we can run it lean.”
Possibilities for a shelter facility included the following:
- The former animal control facility, which can be renovated at minimal cost, Eads said.
- The old jail in Charlotte, which hasn’t been used in 13 years and would cost over $487,000.
- A new “pole barn style” structure that would cost about $250,000.
Eads said a shelter located in Charlotte would be better due its proximity to the county jail when working with inmates.
What did the City of Dickson do?
The City of Dickson has also partnered with the humane society in recent years.
In September, the city opted to increase its annual allocation to $60,000 to the nonprofit after Peery made a request. The city initially allocated $25,500 and increased it to $35,000 in 2021.
Peery showed data to city leaders that nearly 24 percent of animals taken at the shelter were brought in by the city animal control officer and almost 40 percent were brought in by the county’s animal control officer
‘Do what’s right’
Rial provided background on the humane society partnership at the Feb. 21 commission meeting. Two weeks prior, Peery also presented an overview of the situation to commissioners.
In 2019, former county Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe sought the partnership with the humane society at a cost to the county of about $25,000. Two years later, the county agreed to the annual $45,000 cost.
Rial said looking at the financials from a budget-balancing and business perspective, a jump from $25,000 to $150,000 “gives you pause.”
Once the mayor became aware that the humane society might have to break off the partnership due to their costs, Rial said he was “taken aback by that.”
“It appeared that we may be about to use animals and their welfare as bargaining tools,” Rial said. “We have to set that aside and do what’s right.”
Who are committee members?
The mayor appointed a committee to oversee analyzing and recommending an option to the full commission next month. The committee members are commissioners Jody Britt, Carl Buckner, Mike Petty, Randy Simpkins and Becky Spicer.
More:Rescue animals find care, love at Dickson Co. Humane Society