Peterborough Editorial: Peterborough Humane Society, townships must negotiate

What is shaping up to be a war between the municipalities of Peterborough County and the Peterborough Humane Society should be nothing more than the start of normal negotiations.

So far, only the Township of North Kawartha has been heard on the municipal front, but many of its seven counterparts could join in the expressions of outrage.

North Kawartha is upset that the Humane Society is ending its agreement to provide animal control services because the township refused to donate $50,000 for a new state-of-the-art animal shelter.

There is some justification for township politicians to call blackmail for dismissal and promise to find their own solution to ensure animal control and dog licensing.

The Humane Society overplayed its game with the “termination notice,” just as it did by asking the eight municipalities to contribute $50,000 equally toward the $10 million project.

North Kawartha, centered around Apsley, has a population of 2,500, by far the smallest in the county. She and the next six largest municipalities all refused the donation request.

Selwyn Township has a population of 17,600, by far the largest in the county, and was the only municipality to pay the requested $50,000.

The Humane Society should have taken a kinder, gentler approach. Adapting its fundraising “demand” to recognize that not all municipalities have the same ability to pay would have been diplomatic and more effective.

Ditto for having advised non-donors that it was time to renegotiate their contract without heading the letter “Notice of termination of the animal services agreement”.

The township is angry that the Humane Society did not negotiate first without threatening to walk away. Again, there is a just cause for this feeling.

However, the letter is actually a pretty standard approach. It gives 60 days notice of termination and invites the canton to negotiate new pricing.

It will almost certainly happen. The township now pays $6,000 to $8,000 a year depending on how often animal control officers are called. She and other county municipalities would struggle to replace that service for the same cost – and would have to provide their own animal shelters.

Perhaps that’s why the Humane Society felt it could take a hard line. Or it could just be another example of overshoot.

The affection that many people feel for their pets carries over to the Humane Society, as evidenced by several individual donations to its fundraising campaign ranging from $100,000 to $700,000. About $8 million was raised.

But it was slow. The project was originally announced with an opening date of 2018. This turned out to be not only ambitious but unrealistic.

The City of Peterborough has the greatest interest in the continued success of the Humane Society. It has contributed $1.7 million over five years to the build campaign and has just negotiated a new five-year contract that increases its annual service fee by 23% to $448,000.

The city was paying $300,000 a year to run its own animal control when it first contracted with the Humane Society 23 years ago and its shelter needed replacing.

Adjusted for inflation, the $300,000 comes out to $460,000. Peterborough pays a fair price for what it gets and accepts that the service also requires a capital cost.

This should be the starting point for negotiations with county municipalities. No need to unleash the dogs of war.

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