Animal Control Contracts and the Impact on Public Safety
Stray animals and animal related complaints fall into the category of social disorder and as a result, the responsibility of animal control often falls upon the police. The police are not usually experts in the field of animal control nor are they equipped to handle related functions such as animal pickup and impound. As a result, most municipalities contract these services with local humane organizations.
Contracts for animal control services may be outdated and quite possibly do not take into consideration changes in the field of animal control. Special interest groups may also influence the way humane organizations carry out the work that they are contracted to perform. The end result may be services performed in a manner inconsistent with the mission of the contracting agency. Audits may reveal that municipalities are paying for things they did not intend to. Contracts with local humane organizations are often renewed without in-depth analysis and generally do not involve those departments charged with the responsibility of running the program.
Humane organizations attract dedicated people concerned for the welfare of animals. Because these organizations are generally not for profit, they rely on donations and volunteers to supplement their paid staff in order to function. Humane organizations find it difficult to compete with the salary levels of the private sector and as a result are likely to experience a high rate of turnover. High turnover means a lack of experience in dealing with animals and may result in higher than normal exposure to animal bites and diseases that accompany them.
Animal bites and the potential for the spread of disease are two reasons that animal control is directly related to public safety. Too little attention has been paid to the correlation between stray animals, animal bites and the potential for the spread of disease.
Little competition exists for animal pickup and impound services. Municipalities view these as important and required services and as a result, humane organizations may try to take advantage of a monopoly situation.
This research paper explores the complex field of animal control and its relationship to public safety. Several methods of reducing stray animal populations exist but research reveals that some methods have unintended secondary effects and consequences.
Local governments should examine current contracts for service to be sure the needs of the community are met. They should also be prepared to find an alternative if the services provided are unsatisfactory or the contracted service provider discontinues service.