Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Lakeshore PAWS drops out of partnership for county animal shelter

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County officials’ pursuit of a new Animal Shelter will progress without the Lakeshore PAWS as a partner.

Lakeshore’s president and co-founder Jeanne Sommers told the Chesterton Tribune that the central reason for Lakeshore’s exit happened a few weeks ago when she was speaking with lawyers about “gray areas” regarding Animal Control and the different scenarios of who would be responsible, Lakeshore or the County, as they tried to share clerical duties.

“It just got too confusing. We had questions like when the dogs and cats came in, who would administer the shots, who would do the behavioral testing… when does it stop being the County and when does it start being Lakeshore?” Sommer said. “It would have taken too much time to figure out those questions when we could have been working to get the building plans.”

Lakeshore, which is a non-profit pet rescue agency based in Valparaiso, will move forward with building an “adoption center” of its own once it can raise enough funds through donations to purchase land somewhere in Porter County.

Meanwhile, County Commissioners John Evans, R-North, and Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, said their board will keep pushing for a new County Animal shelter without Lakeshore at its side. They said the County will try to build the new facility by itself but they are open to the possibility of a new public/private partnership if some arrangement could benefit the County.

While the County was busy with assembling its plans for a new animal shelter in early 2012, Lakeshore was planning a rescue and adoption facility of its own. The two decided to merge their efforts for efficiency purposes and for the benefit of both the animals and taxpayers.

The County Commissioners at a meeting in June signed a letter of intent with the non-profit Lakeshore to negotiate the possibility of having Lakeshore operate the new shelter and, among other things, cover construction costs. According to the letter, the County in turn would provide the land. The tasks of Animal Control were under the auspices of the County while tasks of animal welfare and adoptions would be managed by Lakeshore employees.

Details came out in late August that the Commissioners were considering giving Lakeshore a five-acre parcel of County-owned land at the intersection of Ind. 149 and 130, which would be central so it would be easier for residents of Duneland and Portage to get to.

Shortly thereafter, Lakeshore announced during an adoption event that the organization would be considering paying back the county for the land with funds that it raised.

But even then, Sommer said that the potential public/private partnership was still being evaluated to see if it could work for both parties.

A feasibility study released last year by Shelter Planners of America recommended the new building be close to 10,500 sq. ft., with 3,500 sq. ft. of exterior space. A shelter like the one recommended would cost about $2.9 million, the study said.

Evans said the Commissioners and the Council will have to decide on funding in due course. But until then, Evans said his board will do its best working with the current “undersized” facility which has seen improvements over the last year with Shelter Director Jon Thomas. Thomas was successful in achieving a “no-kill” status for the shelter last year.

A general industry standard suggests a no-kill shelter needs to have at least 90 percent of its animals not be euthanized. Less than 8 percent of the 2,202 animals taken in by the Shelter in 2012 were euthanized due to illness.

“We’re pretty satisfied with the Shelter as it is now,” said Evans, who did agree a new shelter still needs to be built, citing that the outdoor dog runs are too small as an example.

The Commissioners are reevaluating their options for a location, Evans said, but would like to see the Shelter be easily accessible for Portage residents to deter them from dropping off animals at facilities outside the county that are high-kill shelters.

Lakeshore will still aid the County with educating the public on spay/neuter procedures and adopting out animals working with Thomas and his staff.

“We will still have a relationship in that respect,” said Sommer.

Blaney and Evans said there are “no hard feelings” about the division and that no agreements, other than the letter of intent, had been signed.

“We never did know for sure if the partnership was going to work,” Evans said.

Evans said final floor plans from Shelter Planners of America were never acquired.

He said he knows of a firm locally that has a good reputation of building animal shelters throughout the nation and will consider working with them.

Sommer said the higher costs of building and operating a new Shelter for the County was not a factor in why Lakeshore has bowed out of the plan.

 

 

Posted 3/11/2013