Levy Court approves contract negotiations with Kent County SPCA for new dog control contract.

Kent County Levy Court commissioners on Sept. 3 gave a tentative OK to awarding the county's dog control contract to the Kent County SPCA. Commissioners made the decision during their committee meetings to have a formal vote on the matter put on the agenda for their Tuesday, Sept. 10 business session. If enacted, the pact would be effective Oct. 1 and would run through June 30, 2014, the end of the current fiscal year. County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange presented commissioners with a draft of the contract and a memorandum he said addressed many of the concerns people have raised about the shelter. The contract establishes procedures for handling complaints and grievances arising from how KCSPCA personnel may perform their duties. Petit de Mange would oversee handling of any complaints, which would be sent to the KCSPCA executive director. Any problems not satisfactorily resolved within 10 days would be sent up the chain to the group's board of directors. Commissioners also would nominate and appoint a representative to sit on the board of directors who would serve as a liaison to Levy Court with full voting rights. Petit de Mange also stressed the contract would limit KCSPCA services only to complying with inspection and enforcement provisions under Delaware law regarding dog control. Animal control officers would have no jurisdiction in other issues, such as zoning matters or noise complaints. Other provisions of the contract include submitting a monthly activity report to the county and would require KCSPCA personnel to undergo county-sponsored customer service training. Dog control officers would be on duty from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, and on call the remainder of the time. The KCSPCA would receive $72,414.33 for each month of service through June 30, 2014, the end of the current fiscal year. A new contract, possibly with increased costs to the county, would have to be negotiated for any time past June 30. Levy Court President P. Brooks Banta said it was apparent the KCSPCA had made a number of concessions based on past public comments about the organization. “This could be a win-win for everyone,” he said. “It's a giant step in the right direction.” Commissioner Eric Buckson concurred, also noting the draft contract addresses several concerns raised by the public. Buckson said he would like to see language in the contract that would require the KCSPCA to offer any dogs brought in under the contract to as many other shelters as possible before considering euthanasia. In deciding in favor of the draft KCSPCA contract, the panel rejected a proposal by Commissioner George “Jody” Sweeney to set up a separate division within the county to handle the issue. Sweeney's plan was prompted as an alternative to having a private entity handle the dog control issue, as was the case both when the KCSPCA and the Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary ran the program. In July, commissioners cancelled the contract with Safe Haven because of alleged financial negligence and infighting among its board of directors. The no-kill Georgetown shelter had taken over the contract after submitting a winning bid over the KCSPCA. While the commissioners in principle seemed amenable to the principle of a county-run program, several doubts scuttled the idea. Concerns were raised about the length of time it would take to set up a new division within county government, what would happen to the employees if, as rumored, the state of Delaware moves to again shoulder the responsibility for dog control, and other issues, such as the availability of shelters to receive captured animals and the cost of veterinary care.