UPDATED - WEB ONLY EDITORIAL: Taking a bite out of PAWS
The vote was taken last night to reduce the PAWS budget by $250,000. But, the outcome is not final.The battle is not over for those who chose to stay in it. For some people looking at the Peoria budget deficit, which now appears to be climbing toward the $15 million mark, the answers are easy. But, for most, the decisions come hard.
Legally, the council can eliminate everything but police and fire and other mandated duties.
Though everything else is fair game, each potential cut has opponents ready to battle for a service, agency or jobs.
PAWS, the city’s animal shelter, is one agency caught in the crossfire. One suggested cut would result in the euthanization of an estimated 7,000 animals.
This sad detail illustrates just how difficult this budget cutting process is — and how desperate the city is to find solutions to the money crunch.
Without funding, the agency would no longer be available to pick up wounded, confused or threatening wild animals in residential neighborhoods.
And, without PAWS’ existence, Peorians would be denied the joy of adoping an abandoned dog or cat in need of a loving home.
That takes a bite out of our quality of life.
The council has no easy options on this issue.
The first proposal calls for turning the shelter over to the county. Peoria County administrator Patrick Urich has been less than enthusiastic about that idea, since the shelter is expected to have a $500,000 budget shortfall in 2009. If the county takes over, it will mean fewer services for the city — unless the city ponies up more money.
“The county is willing to execute its mandated responsibility, but will retain all revenue generated from rabies registration,” a memo to the city council said. The county will provide only animal bite investigations, rabies prevention and dangerous or vicious dog determination. Anything more than that and the city would have to pay separately for those services.
The second option calls for trimming $250,000 from PAWS budget, resulting in drastically trimmed services.
The third option calls for a $500,000 reduction in PAWS budget. This would result in the elimination of the animal adoption program.
“The shelter will no longer adopt our homeless or unwanted animals; dogs and cats that do not get reclaimed will be humanely destroyed. An estimated 7,000 animals will be euthanized,” a memo to the city council said.
The city council is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on one of the three options
“This is about public safety. Eighty percent of the work they do is public safety,” said 2nd District councilwoman Barbara Van Auken,
She said she is concerned, however, that without vocal public support the agency is in trouble.
“As we have an increase in the number of people who want to use animals as a weapon, the need for this service increases,” Van Auken said.
Van Auken said anyone concerned about the shelter needs to speak up to the council before Tuesday’s vote.
“The mayor, who chaired Bark In The Park yesterday, encouraged people to contact the council. I think he has an open mind. If people care about this they need to contact us.”
If the shelter is to be saved, it will require public input.
To provide that input call your councilmen. Let your voice be heard, because those pets in the shelter have no voice.
Mayor Jim Ardis
City Hall: 494-8519
Clyde Gulley Jr.
Barbara Van Auken
Home Phone: 688-5149
William R. Spears
W. Eric Turner
Gary V. Sandberg
George F. Jacob