York County SPCA leaders recently presented a proposal to the York County Commissioners to support the funding of a low-cost, high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter clinic that will be the first of its kind in the state of Pennsylvania. Although many of the benefits and funding details have been widely reported, other facts are less known but their importance cannot be understated.
The county provided $160,000 of funding to the SPCA in 2012, of which $60,000 was specifically earmarked to address feral cat complaints originating in southern York County. Given the delicate financial condition of the SPCA and the ongoing need to address a widespread animal overpopulation crisis in our region, the status quo likely would have required that this same level of funding continue indefinitely for several years.
Our proposal, however, entails a county commitment of only $136,000 per year, which is a 15 percent reduction from the amount received in 2012. In addition, projected sterilization capacity of feral cats would increase fourfold while covering a broader geographical area. Thus, we believe our proposal will actually save taxpayers money in comparison to the amount that otherwise would have been required.
In the absence of a private shelter alternative like theYork County SPCA, the cost to taxpayers would be much greater. Delaware County, Pennsylvania, recently scrapped plans to build its own municipal shelter when project costs escalated to $2 million. It is now contracting its animal control services with neighboring Chester County at a cost of $250 per animal, which equates to a minimum of $30,000 per month or $360,000 per year.
Given the volume of incoming animals the York County SPCA receives each year, if this same contract were to apply locally the cost to the county would be over $141,000 per month or nearly $1.7 million annually.
Rather than costing the county and its residents, we would argue that the existence of a private shelter alternative such as the local SPCA actually saves the county and its taxpayers hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars each year.
In an ideal world the York County SPCA would be 100 percent donor-funded and individual pet owners and local citizens would be personally responsible to ensure that their pets are spayed or neutered and properly provided for. Regrettably, we do not live in such a world.
The recent recession has caused donations to decline while simultaneously expenses and the needs of our community have grown. Historically, the SPCA has approached the county for assistance only when absolutely necessary -- this is one of those times.
We do recognize the importance of being fiscally responsible, and our proposal is consistent with this philosophy. Our annual funding request represents less than .03 percent of the overall county budget, yet it will provide a significant return on taxpayer investment. Whether one is an advocate for animals or merely concerned about the health and public safety risks the current situation entails, the benefits of the project are broad and lasting.
Unique opportunities to make a meaningful difference in the community while enhancing the York County SPCA's financial position do not present themselves often. The planets are now aligned to implement and execute a comprehensive solution to the animal overpopulation challenge and simultaneously ensure that the SPCA continues to be the same force for community good for future generations as it has been in the past for nearly 90 years.
We're committed to the project's ultimate success, and do hope the commissioners and the residents of York County will support this crucial endeavor. We will not let you down.
-- Kathy Parks King is president of the York County SPCA Board of Directors and Kevin J. Smith is first vice president of the board.