Expanding Easton's animal control contract to 24-7 coverage 365 days per year, and temporarily housing lost and stray dogs will ultimate save the city money as well as help take care of a growing problem, Administrator Glen Steckman told city council Tuesday evening.
With the no-kill Center for Animal Welfare overcrowded to the point it cannot take more animals, and an annual bill in addition to animal control of nearly $43,000 per year, the city needs to do something, he said.
Steckman said he hopes the new plan will not only alleviate some of the associated costs, but also give the city somewhere to take the dogs.
"The animal center has been unfortunately been turning down our requests too often," he said, though the city will still work with the shelter.
"I want to emphasize this is on a temporary basis," Steckman said.
He added that he feels the issue needs to be dealt with on a county-wide basis, and the Two River Council of Governments plans to make animal control a priority in 2012.
"All municipalities are mandated by the state to deal with stray dogs," Steckman said. “We are the biggest user in the county, and we understand that."
Still, the city needs to deal with the problem now.
To start, the city will utilize an unused police K-9 kennel to be located on the water treatment plant property. The unit is heated and houses four dogs. The city will purchase up to three more units in coming months, Steckman said.
"We're going to make a greater effort to reunite dogs with their owners," Steckman said.
The dogs will hopefully be reunited with their owners or placed in other accommodations for adoption within five days, but if not, the city will work to find a solution. Non-vicious dogs will not be put down, Steckman said.
The depressed economy has contributed to the situation, which has grown in the past couple of years, said Mayor Sal Panto.
"People can't feed themselves so they let their dog go," he said. "My big concern is, we just don't have enough room. Four (kennel spaces) will be gone in a week."
Steckman agreed. "With the economic downturn, there are a lot of people who have to make the decision between the dog and feeding the children."
For this reason, as the city finds owners of lost dogs, it has no plans to fine them or charge a fee when they are retrieved.
"I think if you charge the owners, they're not going to pick the dogs up," said Finance Administrator Chris Hegele.