By Nolan Madden
The Holbrook City Council denied this month a proposed change to a city ordinance which would allow spay, neuter and pet adoption fees at the Holbrook Animal Care and Control Shelter to be waived for senior citizen residents under the city’s Golden Agers and Pets program.
The change was opposed by Mayor Bobby Tyler, Vice Mayor Wade Carlisle, and Councilmen Earl Kester and Richard Peterson, and favored by Councilmen Tim Dixon and C.J. Wischmann, and Councilwoman Francie Payne.
The city requires that all newly adopted pets be spayed or neutered by their owners within 30 calendar days, at the costs of $60 and $55, respectively. The city’s pet adoption fee is $15, which includes an animal license fee.
The updated ordinance would have slated the city to cover these fees if the individuals adopting an animal were age 60 or older, for an initial period of one year.
City Manager Ray Alley, who consulted with Holbrook Animal Care and Control Officer Merrill Young for his thoughts on the proposal, says that Young posed valid concerns: “If a person can’t afford a $65 or $70 adoption fee, how are they going to afford the food, shots and veterinary bills for the animal thereafter? And would we be handling these animals again because of those issues?”
Alley added that Young also wasn’t completely convinced that changing the ordinance would be beneficial, due to the already limited staff at the city’s animal care center.
Other city officials also voiced their concerns.
“It’s hard to argue against something that seems like a good thing. I guess this would be good for seniors or semi-seniors to have a dog, and it’s nice to have them for free. But that doesn’t mean that it should be paid for with tax monies,” Councilman Richard Peterson stated.
“And in this particular case, we’re taking from Peter to give to Paul, so to speak. This fee is small enough that people who want to take advantage of this program can take the funds out of their own pockets.
“As a matter of fact, we have a very good organization, the Friends of the Holbrook Animal Shelter, who just recently held a spay and neuter clinic where they performed these services for half price. They did it with their money, money that they raised, the way you’d like to see these things happen. In fact, this group is looking for people, time and money to help out with this.”
The councilman pointed to the December 2015 donation of 735 bags of dog food–15,823 pounds in total–to the Friends, who are a nonprofit 501c3 organization, by Nestle Purina in Flagstaff.
The Friends said the gifted food will be used to feed the shelter’s dogs, and that arrangements were in the works to donate some of the food to seniors in the community who have dogs.
“That cost the taxpayers nothing, and I think that that’s the model we need to look at,” said Peterson.
Mayor Tyler holds a similar opinion, using the hypothetical scenario of an elderly grandmother who is unable to afford to adopt a shelter puppy for her grandson, who wants one. “These are reasonable things to expect to happen, and so the city would be dealing with those dogs again,” said the mayor.
As an alternative, Tyler recommends Young’s suggestion that Holbrook citizens volunteer to bring their own dogs for self-supervised visits at the senior center. “They know their dogs best,” he said, pointing out the potential liability issues the city would encounter in the event of an unintended animal bite.
Alley also says that the city explored several options in an effort to support the GAAP program, but that the aforementioned personnel limitations would not make carrying out the program feasible.
Holbrook Recreation Department Director Louie Baldonado Jr., who proposed the GAAP program to the city in January, says his initiative was designed to also benefit the city’s military veterans, and that he is disappointed with the decision.
“There are aspects of the proposal that we could have changed, but the adoption aspect still could have been on the table,” said Baldonado.
The recreation director says he feels that the city officials could have altered the program guidelines as they wished, and that he doesn’t understand why they did not.
He adds that, in addition to developing upcoming programs for the city’s youth, he will continue to explore alternatives to help make Holbrook’s adoptable pets and its senior residents physically and mentally healthy and happy.
By Nolan Madden