During a public hearing last week on the , several members of the Stratford Animal Rescue Society (STARS) requested that the town add about $17,000 to Stratford Animal Control's budget.
"Animal control is doing more with less," Marjean O'Malley said at the hearing.
A healthy chunk of the $17,600 requested increase -- about $14,100 -- would be for part-time salaries.
The article on the hearing can be . As of April 24, it had 36 comments, some of which prompted STARS member Marjean O'Malley to write the following response.
By Marjean O'Malley
In response to some questions, concerns, and "interesting" comments, please allow me to clarify some points.
Why are impound numbers higher here than the other towns?
There would be several factors affecting this number. Most animals are picked up roaming. First, Stratford is the lowest per capita municipality in Fairfield County that is not a city and most likely has the most diverse socioeconomic makeup among them as well.
We may be hit harder economically for numerous reason causing [people] to abandon their pets. Stratford is a direct neighbor to a major [city], there is not a wall between Bridgeport and Stratford. Animals most certainly possibly roam across the "border" and there is no way to identify them as from originating here or not and is just a fact of our town's location.
We are fortunate to have Animal Control Officers that respond to calls and make every effort to retrieve these animals, which is just one of their MANY responsibilities in serving residents. Please note animals are also retrieved from being tied to fences, etc. throughout our town as well as found in plastic storage containers with lids on, taped into boxes, and multiple animals stuffed into carriers meant for one animal.
They are found starved, matted, ill, beaten, with broken bones and open wounds. Yes, these are the actions of some who live among us in Stratford when they find they no longer want their "pet" for a multitude of reasons.
In reponse to: 'Just shoot the nuisances'
Really? Frankly, the lack of empathy here and cruel tone of this statement is appalling at best. Tens of thousands of dollars to continue care or provide all other veterinary care is payed for by S.T.A.R.S. year-round fundraising and donations from residents and others from all over and businesses as well.
Each animal is also spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped before leaving for a new home. This is why our adoption program is so successful with animals adopted in an average of 2 weeks. This costs the town nothing.
Did you know it would cost Stratford upwards of $65,000 per year to euthanize rather than doing what is presently done at NO COST to the town while re-homing them?
What takes place with support from residents, including children and businesses in conjunction with S.T.A.R.S. and Animal Control has shown that working together we can do the right thing for these animals. What happens here shows how Stratford Animal Control is a fine example to all municipalities on how things should be done all the while saving the town money.
By the way, for the record, shooting them is illegal and is a felony under state statutes.
In response to: The '77 percent' increase to part-time help
What a large percentage, but let's deal in absolute dollars and facts.
The new facility has a 400 percent greater capacity. This was based on actual statistics for our town over years and a feasibility study as well. In fact, national guidelines call for 5 or 6 full-time ACO's based on our town's number of calls out on the road and the animals impounded.
We know times are tough, and no one has asked for additional full-time officers. There are presently 2 part-time positions, 1 for 19 hours to cover 5 days a week and the other for 8 hours to cover 2 days a week. It takes 8 hours a day to clean.
The request made to add two additional positions that are the same as these to fill the void is at a cost of $14,040. Cleaning animal housing areas is not just scooping poop and hosing it off. There are special cleaners and a specific protocol to be used to prevent the spread of disease.
If these positions are not funded in the new budget and approved by Mayor Harkins then this pulls the ACO's off the road, and away from the phone to clean. This leaves them unable to respond to calls and perform their many duties for half of every day. Would we pull police officers off the road to clean the police department every day?
Trained personnel in Public Safety have a job to do, and this would put residents at risk in many types of situations. These two positions are the most effective way to provide adequate coverage. (If cleaning leads to OT, which it could, then the cost is likely threefold per hour.) This is a valid and fiscally responsible request. This is minimal staffing.
The budget to feed hundreds of animals each year has been $1,200 per year. The animals have been fed by donated food year after year. Individuals dropping food off, business, civic groups holding food drives and the ones that I love the most -- children opting for food donations rather than gifts at their own birthday parties -- and classroom and scout food drives. Food items valued at up to $30,000 per year at NO COST TO THE TOWN.
This is why the request for the $10,000 to be moved to a line item where it is really necessary. Doesn't this make sense?
In response to: Why no children as volunteers?
The prior facility was not conducive to permitting programs for children due to a lack of space and presently it is town policy that all volunteers be at least 18 years of age.
The new facility is designed in a way for programs like this to happen. Animal Control and S.T.A.R.S. do indeed want to include family units as volunteers. Just give us some time.
We have started a series of Humane Education programs for children. They are broken down into groups by age and topic. These have been announced in the media and information is available on our website.
By the way, these are one of the many things done by volunteers, including supplies. We all feel that working with and educating children of all ages is greatly important. This just takes some time to ensure programs are started with proper consideration and research before beginning. We anticipate a time when all that want to help or learn can be accommodated and that is our goal.
Please note all volunteers complete a mandatory training to ensuring their safety and that of the animals.
The animal control facility was built to serve the needs of Stratford and only Stratford. At no time was it ever to include animals from any other municipality.
This "information." provided by someone that is not a resident of Stratford, is incorrect.
I do happen to know for a fact that when Bridgeport began their new facility at the old dog track kennel buildings that the then mayor of Bridgeport had publicly mentioned that other buildings could possibly be used by area towns. That was before he was informed that only municipalities much smaller than the towns surrounding Bridgeport can have "regional" shelters per state guidelines and statutes. This has absolutely no bearing on Stratford Animal Control nor the animals impounded there.
The average adoption time of an animal here is 2 weeks
Some shorter, some take longer, but this is able to be accomplished because of volunteers and supporters that provide funds by donation or attending our many fundraisers. It is successful because volunteers spend so much of their time with the animals and working on these fundraisers. Successful because people do care and show that by their donations and support that allow us to provide for these animals and to spay/neuter, vaccinate, and microchip them. People come from far and wide to adopt from here because of these efforts made on the animals behalf.
Animals that are impounded are there because of the actions of someone within our community. Whether abandoned, roaming, seized for cruelty/neglect, it is all at the hands of a person.
The public support for S.T.A.R.S. and Animal Control, reflects that people truly care in how much we are able to do for them. Even the kids get it, as proven by their actions. Their support speaks volumes to the fact that people appreciate and expect the right thing to be done.
All this is done while allowing Animal Control to do the best they can for residents in responding to their various needs and circumstances and ensuring local and state statutes are enforced. An Animal Control Officer is not a "dog catcher." They have a huge amount of responsibilities to deal with.
Why set Animal Control up for unavoidable budget overages for basic needs by providing a budget with a lack of funds and staffing?
Isn't it wiser, and more fiscally responsible to grant the small additional amount of $17,600, approve part-time positions totaling 27 hrs a week (included in this figure), and meet their needs?
To build a facility after recognizing it was required and not provide the minimum needed for it to function does not make sense.
Volunteers and supporters have stepped up yearly to the growing needs here and will continue. The actual dollar amount needed is truly small in comparison to the cost of lesser coverage of the needs of Stratford residents, even a possible end to the adoption of animals which I once again remind everyone has been costing the town nothing.
These requests are simply about providing this new facility what it needs to function and permit Animal Control Officers to do their jobs. I have made myself available to any and every resident, Town Council member, and even the Mayor by providing a phone number to reach me. Have a question, want to know more, then just call me. I am more than happy to discuss this issue in a civil manner.
While everyone certainly has the right to voice an opinion I feel it is irresponsible for people to state things as "fact" when due diligence is not done. The budget line item amounts provided here are based on facts and need -- not a whim.