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Danger ahead for animal rescue

Sara McManamy-Johnson • Dec 15, 2015 at 11:37 AM

Wilson County commissioners will vote Monday on a proposed resolution that could jeopardize the locally based organization, New Leash on Life.

Commissioners will decide whether to stop collecting the $2 Domestic Animal Tax, a major revenue source for New Lease on Life.

“It would affect us pretty heartily,” said Amy Haverstick, executive director of New Leash on Life. “It would mean a loss of about $35,000 [per year], which is a pretty hefty chunk of our budget.”

She said the revenue lost would equate to two full-time kennel staff positions. There are currently four full-time and one part-time kennel staffers.

“We fight to keep the doors open every month; we’re in a deficit every month,” said Haverstick.

She said no one from the county notified her organization of the planned changes, which she learned about in the newspaper.

“It’s hard to understand not even being consulted on this or notified on this when it affects our budget like it does and when it’s plainly stated in the act that the money goes to us,” said Haverstick.

The act names the Humane Association of Wilson County, which despite the organization’s new moniker – New Leash on Life – is actually still its legal name.

“We have a DBA – Doing Business As – that we filed with the state,” said Haverstick. “It’s sort of a branding thing.”

She said the organization still files its taxes under the original name.

The Domestic Animal Tax dates back to a 1980 referendum passed by county voters for the organization’s use in “animal control.” At the time, the county did not operate an animal control department.

In 2003, though, the county began operating an animal control department.

The proposed resolution will be considered in tandem with another resolution that would levy a $5 domestic animal fee due when pet owners obtain vaccinations for their animals.

Of that fee, 5 percent would go to the county clerk’s office for processing costs and the remainder would go to an operating fund for the county’s animal control department.

Joy Bishop, a former county commissioner, voiced her opposition to the proposal recently.

“I have nothing but respect for Wilson County Animal Control and the employees are great. I admire Mayor Hutto for creating such a good department, but we just cannot exchange our democratic process for funds for a county department,” said Bishop in a letter to The Democrat. “Also, I simply cannot understand how the modest amount of money voted for New Leash on Life could make a difference in the county’s multi-million-dollar budget.”

She suggested commissioners instead consider including $2 for New Leash on Life in the $5 fee.

“This would not compromise principles but would be an agreement from two entities which both service the citizens of Wilson County well,” said Bishop.

Haverstick noted that New Leash on Life provides services to county residents that animal control does not.

“We take in owner surrenders from the citizens of Wilson County. Animal control does not,” said Haverstick. “You cannot just go to animal control and say, ‘I can’t take care of this animal anymore.’”

Additionally, New Leash on Life takes in and adopts out cats and kittens. Haverstick said that although animal control occasionally ends up with cats, it’s not part of the department’s standard procedures.

“It’s not in any of the animal control ordinances,” said Haverstick. “If you have a cat issue, you can’t call animal control to take care of it.”

The organization also offers low-cost spaying and neutering, as well as a mobile clinic.

“We adopt out between 600 and 800 animals a year,” said Haverstick. “If we weren’t here, what would happen to those animals?”

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