The Mayor's Blog
Animal House Fund, Update
This catches you up on an issue I raised here. If you are new to the issue, here is a re-cap:
The former City animal control facility on Gasconade was a horrible place ten years ago. Built originally as a place to kill stray animals, it simply couldn’t be renovated to meet the more humane requirements of sheltering animals, returning them to health, and offering them for adoption. But, the cost of replacing the Gasconade facility would have strained the City’s budget.
A group of citizens and City officials proposed an interesting solution at the time: ask private donors who strongly supported the effort to fund the cost of constructing a new facility. Citizens began fundraising. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen authorized the addition of a check-box to the City’s utility and tax bills allowing private donations to a dedicated Animal Protection Facility Restoration Fund. The enabling ordinance restricted the use of the funds raised by the check-box to capital improvements or new facilities to care fore abandoned, neglected, and injured animals.
Over nine years, the fund accumulated $255,721.92 – not nearly enough for a new shelter, but still a sizable amount of money.
When I decided last year that the City’s animals had waited for us long enough and ordered the Gasconade facility closed and invited new partnerships with private groups to address the need for animal shelters and adoption services, the fund was still untapped. I considered refunding the money to taxpayers and water users. But, two factors convinced me otherwise.
First, I knew that most people really wanted their donations spent to improve the conditions of the animals. And, second, I learned that most of the donations were small, in most cases under a dollar and the result of people rounding up their water bill or tax payments.
So, I have asked aldermen to consider allowing the City’s partners to apply to the Health Department for access to the funds for future capital improvement needs to their facilities. If the Health Director believes the expenditure is consistent with the ordinance and will improve conditions for dogs, she will submit the request to the aldermanic Public Health Committee for its approval. I believe that, if approved, this arrangement will be consistent with the wishes of the original donors.
I have some other ideas for a new ordinance that will make St. Louis a more pet-friendly city. I will mention them to you soon.