The impasse on a contract extension between the Kent County SPCA in Camden and Kent County Levy Court has yet to be resolved and the KCSPCA is scheduled to cease animal control in the county on July 1.

The impasse on a contract extension between the Kent County SPCA in Camden and Kent County Levy Court has yet to be resolved and the KCSPCA is scheduled to cease animal control in the county on July 1.

In April, the Kent County SPCA requested more funds from the county in order to meet rising costs associated with the state Companion Animal Protection Act of 2010, which required vaccinations and veterinary care for all animals taken in. Its request for a $1.3 million contract for 2013 was nearly 50 percent more than the amount Kent County Levy Court had budgeted for animal control.

Kent County Administrator Mike Petit de Mange requested a six-month offer in order to have a contract in place come July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, giving both sides more time to resolve their differences.

On May 18, KCSPCA submitted two six-month proposals to Kent County Levy Court, Petit de Mange said in a memorandum to Levy Court commissioners. One was for $600,082 plus additional expenses for investigations, legal fees and fuel, et cetera. The second was for $462,154 pus additional expenses.

Levy Court countered on June 8 with a $406,764 offer, which included $10,000 in miscellaneous expenses, Petit de Mange said. The KCSPCA Board of Directors reacted by withdrawing both of its prior offers.

Meanwhile, Levy Court President P. Brooks Banta, Commissioner George “Jody” Sweeney and Petit de Mange met with the Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in Georgetown to discuss having it  possibly handle dog control services in Kent County. Safe Haven said it could offer services beginning in mid July.

Petit de Mange said he then met with Kent County SPCA Board President Alex Moore and Executive Director Kevin Usilton on June 20 in an attempt to still negotiate an alternative contract. At that point, Moore and Usilton requested a six-moth contract extension worth $620,000.

That drew the ire of Sweeney, who said several constituents had also complained to him about the KCSPCA’s customer service practices.

“When Mr. Usilton and Mr. Moore came to Levy Court with their ultimatum of $1,300,000 for a new contract with a year left on the contract, I used it as a pathway to address the issues from constituents,” he said. “I requested of the county administrator and informed the Board of Trustees that it would be my intention to ask for concessions in a new contract.”

Sweeney was opposed to an increase attributed solely to CAPA, he said. He asked for better oversight, increased presence on the Board of Trustees, and a method for complaints to be heard and dealt with.

Usilton said he believed the constituents complaining to Sweeney were a small, vocal group of “no kill” advocates who disagreed with the KCSPCA’s policy of euthanizing animals because of overcrowding at the shelter.

As for justifying the request for more money, Usilton stood by the state CAPA law as a legitimate reason for the request for more funding.

“The Companion Animal Protection Act was formulated to increase adoption for all animals to ensure they received the care they deserved,” he said. “But it increased expenses for us, because we handle 15,000 animals a year.”

Under CAPA, every animal has to see a veterinarian or vet tech within 72 hours and vaccinated against contagious diseases, among other things.

CAPA’s intention was good in that lawmakers sought to reduce the amount of pets being euthanized, but it increased expenses for the SPCA, Usilton said.

“It’s not necessarily a bad bill but it ties the hands of nonprofits, which are doing welfare work,” he said. “So, it’s an unfunded mandate from the state.”

But Commissioner Eric Buckson said he could not understand why the KCSPCA would initially request a $1.3 million contract. In 2008, dog control funds sent to the state by the county was less than $250,000, he said.

“I can not, in good faith, continue to agree to increase funding without asking for a seat at the table to look at revenue/expenses,” Buckson said.

He hopes the state, all three counties, and the SPCA will work together to fix this problem.

SIDEBAR: Kent County SPCA confiscates 52 cats after Hartly residents complain

Meanwhile, county residents like Beth Krumrine, of Magnolia, are wondering what is going to happen come July 1. Krumrine said a dog was abandoned in her parents’ neighborhood so the neighbors started to feed the dog and give it water, although it was not friendly to everyone. She called the KCSPCA to have it pick up the dog, but the fact that the dog was tied up, not roaming free and being fed and watered apparently complicated things. All ended well when a woman who heard about the dog on Facebook came to the neighborhood , gently picked it up and put it in her car and rode away, adopting the pet.

While that story had a happy ending, Krumrine was still troubled.

“Is this the first of many problems to come relative to stray dogs in Kent County?” she said. “What does this mean for the future?”

Several of the people waiting in line for the KCSPCA’s rabies clinic Monday afternoon also worried about what the future held. They included Rose Thurau, of Harrington, who was there with her granddaughter Kendall and their dog, Daisy May.

“That’s crazy,” Thurau said of SPCA ceasing to do animal control. “Those poor dogs and cats will just be running loose and getting hit by cars.”