Humane Soc. of Marathon Co. Pres. on More Funding: "It's do or die"

By: Madeline Anderson Email
By: Madeline Anderson Email

The Humane Society of Marathon Co. has been running at a deficit for the last three years.

"We cannot continue to function at that level," Society board president Linda Berna-Karger said.

Staff have taken in an increased number of stray and seized pets during that period because they now have the space to do so.

"The overhead cost going from the Kent St. facility to the new facility down on Packer Dr. is probably four times what they were before," Berna-Karger said.

The problem is, the funding hasn't grown four times. Currently, the shelter receives around $132,000 per year from the county to care for dogs and cats coming through impoundment--seized or stray animals. State law requires that the county hold and provide for the animals for seven days. Once the seven days are up, the county is off the hook and the shelter has to step in. Positions and salaries have already been cut to absorb those growing costs; costs Berna-Karger says the county should cover.

"Our position is, if we did not do the impound services for the county, those animals would not be coming to us," she said. "So even though, statutorily, the county has to hold those animals for seven days. those are really still the county's animals."

"It does concern me that it has gotten to this point," said Kurt Gibbs, Marathon Co. Finance and Property Committee chairman.

Gibbs hopes to create a special task force that will look at a solution.

"The task force will be saddled with the responsibility of coming up with the criteria of what the county needs and wants in the services it is going to contract for," he said.

There are a number of options on the table. Short-term, the county board could raise dog licensing fees. Long-term, it's considering changing state statute to create an ordinance that would require cat owners to also get licenses through the county. Both would go toward the extra $116,000 needed. If they can't reach a compromise, things like life-saving medical care will be on the chopping block.

"That means, is if we don't have the funding to take care of those animals, that they may have to be euthanized," Berna-Karger said. "This is do or die for us now."

The county board will meeting Tuesday to vote on whether to approve the request for the task force. In the meantime, the county has collected around $120,000 in a dog licensing fee fund over the past several years that it will give to the Humane Society to help them out for now.

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