In response to severe overcrowding concerns at the Midwest City animal shelter, city council has voted to cancel partnerships that provide services to neighboring communities.
For years the shelter has worked with Choctaw, Harrah, Jones, Nicoma Park and Forest Park for an annual fee. With the city taking in more dogs and cats than it has space for, however, those in charge say something has to change.
Midwest City has been steadily asking for more money from its neighbors for the last three years, when a study first indicated the animal welfare contracts were not covering the actual cost of the partnerships.
Choctaw Mayor Randy Ross said his team was blindsided when they received a letter canceling their agreement last week.
“The new budget went into effect July 1. We didn’t budget for this,” he said. “We didn’t plan for it.”
Midwest City leaders gave their partner communities until the end of the year to continue bringing strays to the shelter, which only has room for two dozen dogs and about the same number of cats. In 2016, shelter staff had to euthanize 20 percent of the animals, but in the month of May 2017 that number jumped to 33 percent.
“It’s not about the money factor, although we are losing money if you look at the overhead expenses,” Midwest City police Chief Brandon Clabes said. “It’s about the kennel space, and I can’t adopt out viable animals if my space is taken up by someone else from another city.”
A dog lover himself, Clabes said it pains him to see the statistics and realize he doesn't have $3 million in the department's budget to build a brand new facility. Two separate studies noted that is how much an adequate shelter and adoption center would cost, but the city still has not put a bond proposal to fund the project to citizens for a vote.
Clabes said instead of cutting off the rest of eastern Oklahoma County completely, though, he hopes they can come to the table with contributions towards a regional shelter.
“I would think if we’re in active conversations about a solution for Midwest City and eastern Oklahoma County, I would suspect that we’ll continue to provide the service,” Clabes said.
“We’re resilient,” agreed Ross. “We’ll find a way to manage this problem and fix it.”
The community leaders plan to meet in August to discuss their options, and they will look to successful regional shelters around the country for inspiration.