The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

One metro area, two animal shelters, two costly plans to upgrade: Is it time to join forces?

In City Hall, Humane Society, Jerry McGrane, Marion on April 3, 2008 at 4:25 am

It hasn’t escaped the notice of Cedar Rapids council member Jerry McGrane that the Cedar Valley Humane Society’s animal shelter has been in the headlines of late.

The Humane Society’s shelter, which serves much of Linn County outside of Cedar Rapids, was raided by the Marion Police Department last week amid questions about the shelter’s billing practices. An agent of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is helping the Marion department analyze what it has seized.

All of this has come just as the Humane Society had recently announced plans for a $1.5-million expansion of its animal shelter at 7411 Mount Vernon Rd. just east of Cedar Rapids.

At Wednesday evening’s Cedar Rapids council meeting, McGrane suggested to the city staff that the Humane Society’s apparent public-relations pickle might make for the perfect time to again approach the Humane Society about joining forces with the city.

The city of Cedar Rapids, he noted, is looking at relocating its own animal shelter, which is located in a former solid waste treatment building at the far reaches of the city along Old River Road SW. The cost of relocation, which city staff has said might be to an existing building closer to the center of town, could be $1.5 million or more.

“This is an opportunity for the city’s animal control and the Cedar Valley Humane Society to join together,” McGrane suggested to his council colleagues and to the city staff. “I know they have problems now.”

Together, McGrane said, the two animal shelters could build “a pretty elite place” for animals that also would be nicer for employees and the volunteers that both shelters have come to depend on.

“I don’t see any reason for them building a big addition and us doing the same and for us to fighting each other for volunteers,” he said.

City manager Jim Prosser noted that city staff members had been investigating city options to relocate the city’s shelter, and Prosser said the plan had been to report to the council in upcoming weeks.

Prosser seemed to indicate that at McGrane’s request the city staff would add to its list of options the idea of approaching the Humane Society again about possible collaboration.

Such a discussion has occurred in months passed, but it ended in an impasse. The city had said that the price tag was too high for the city to help pay for the expansion of the Humane Society shelter and then to pay annual lease payments to use the place.

Both shelters handle about 3,000 animals a year.

In two interviews in recent weeks with Humane Society board members – first at the announcement of their expansion, and then in reaction to last week’s police raid – the board members expressed no interest in merging forces with the city shelter. Both shelters are needed, the board said.

The city’s Prosser, who has talked about a regional shelter, has said recently that most metropolitan areas of Cedar Rapids’ size often have more than one entity caring for animals.

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  1. Council member McGrane proposal has great merit. It’s time to end the turf battles and bring better cost savings and better pet care for our four legged little friends. It’s the right thing to do.

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