Berryville considers exit from the animal shelter business

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

BERRYVILLE -- The Berryville City Council is working on a plan to exit the animal shelter business while at the same time, become a no-kill city for dogs in its shelter.

The city has been in negotiations with Diane Ferguson and Bill King with Unconditional Love Pet Rescue who would like to take over the operation of the city dog pound.

According to Ferguson, here in the Ozarks, there are more dogs coming into shelters then there are families to rescue them. Many dogs are put down every year for lack of homes. In the Northeast United States, an abundance of spay/neuter laws have successfully kept the pet population under control and have even created a shortage of dogs, with many families desperate to adopt them.

Unconditional Love takes in dogs here and sends them wherever homes are waiting around the country. They cover the costs of operation through adoption fees that are based on demand. According to Ferguson, the fees can be substantial for puppies or exotics like Pomeranians, but those in turn cover the costs of the many older dogs whose adoption fees may low, or even waived for dogs that are hard to place. "No dog gets left behind." said Ferguson. "If I cannot find a home for it, it comes to my home. But I usually find a home."

During the May 15 council meeting, there was a tentative contract that was being looked at for entering an operating agreement for the pound with Unconditional Love. Requests for time to review were made by aldermen who wanted to look it over.

According to Berryville's Administrative Assistant Jay Lee, at the special meeting on Monday, the aldermen voted to authorize Mayor Tim McKinney to go a different route. They hope to do away with the operating contract and instead propose a rental or lease for the facility to Unconditional Love, so they would operate independently, with hopes that the city would be shielded from liability and risk in the matter.

Although it is all in discussion phase currently, it is hoped that a small rental fee or lease amount would be established, and that each animal the city takes to the facility each month would apply credits to the rent or lease.

Unconditional Love is in the process of applying for its non-profit status. Although it has operated for years, Ferguson and King said at last week's meeting they were excited about the chance to operate out of such a nice facility. They hope to make improvements for outdoor recreation and socialization for the dogs taken in, so they are better prepared to meet new families, including those who may have other dogs in the home already.

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