By Sam Conner
Animal care has been a contentious issue in Winslow for some time, especially since the city took over operation of the facility from the Humane Society.
Former Councilwoman Judy Howell has long been a critic of the city’s operation of the facility, and a proponent of changes in the operation of the facility and of building an adequate new facility which can serve the animals and keep them safe.
Howell spoke to the Winslow City Council on Feb. 25 and provided a copy of the material she used in her criticism of the proposed new animal care facility. City Manager Stephen Pauken was later interviewed on the subject.
The revised plan was for a smaller facility for an estimated cost of just over $490,000. The smaller facility was said to probably cost $150,000 less than the larger one. There were no plans to use inmate labor, as there was considerable disagreement about what, if anything, that would save.
Howell spoke against the proposal, saying it was to build a smaller facility at a larger price, and would make for a practice of picking up animals, keeping them a few days, then killing them. She said that the city had shut down a good Humane Society operation and never wanted a good animal care facility.
Pauken said that the plans were adequate and provided room for expansion.
Howell said that the city builds for 10 years ago and not for the future.
The council voted to ask for bids for building the smaller facility.
Howell’s material notes that the building proposal shows the shelter having one less canine isolation unit, one less quarantine unit and 10 less canine units. That would leave the facility with only 10 canine units for healthy dogs. She said there are 25 such units in the current facility.
She said that in 2013 the city took in 533 animals for an average of 44 or 45 animals a month, or 11 animals weekly. She asks, “With only 10 canine units, where are you going to put all of the stray dogs picked up during the spring and summer?” She said that last week the shelter had 17 dogs and two cats, noting that the new facility would not have room for 17 dogs.
She goes on to say that the city and former City Manager John Roche were responsible for shutting down the Humane Society, which was well run and keeping the animals safe, warm and happy. The city promised it would run the facility as a shelter and do it better than the Humane Society. She said this has not happened.
“The city has never really wanted the shelter and has not really staffed it correctly,” she said, “setting it up for failure.” She mentioned a metal building bought for $100,000 for an animal shelter but which has only been used for storage.
Pauken said last week that the city’s records list fewer animals in the shelter than Howell had said were there. He said that he has spoken with Howell, and that she is welcome to come speak with him on this or any other concern she has. He said that the animal control facility is not and was not intended to be an animal rescue facility. That, he said, is just something he and Howell will have to disagree about.
He said that the city taking over the animal shelter from the Humane Society was long before he came to Winslow, and that he did not know the reasons for that or whether it should have been done. He agreed that having people working there who care about animals and their comfort and safety were the keys to a good animal care facility and program.
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By Sam Conner