Eganville – Bonnechere Valley council was faced with a heartfelt appeal to keep the local animal shelter/dog pound open, as well as a 23-page petition, but no decision was made during the committee portion of the meeting last Tuesday, although a discussion was scheduled to be held in closed session.
A release from the township later confirmed council agreed to continue discussions to keep the pound open with the current operator taking over the role of running the entire operation based on a lease agreement. Tammy Roesner has been running the pound as an employee of the township and when the pound was slated to close, she approached council about keeping the pound open instead of contracting out the service to the SPCA in Pembroke.
“If you are talking about the service, it is not the same,” she told council about the decision to close the pound and contract out the service to the SPCA.
In essence, her job would be gone, she noted. Having an occasional call to pick up a dog and drop it off is not the same as her current job, she explained. While she is currently at the pound several times a day, with the proposed contract with SPCA, she would pick up the dogs and drop them off at the SPCA in Pembroke. She noted when she was first notified the pound would be closing and she was offered a new position, she did not sign the agreement and sought legal advice.
“My conscience just said it didn’t seem right,” she said.
Ms. Roesner was asked to bring a formal proposal to council. She presented two options to keep the shelter open, either run by the municipality or leased to her. She also brought letters of support and expense figures for 2021 which presented the pound as a viable option. She also noted if the shelter was leased to her, she would obtain a kennel license.
Ms. Roesner said operating the pound is not as expensive as council had been led to believe.
“I think 99 percent of our food is donated, if not more,” she said.
There are also other items donated, including the shavings for the kennels.
As well, she said when looking at the pound inspection report, the pound is not in need of major repair as had been stated previously.
“I was the only one who asked for a pound inspection report,” she added.
Mayor Jennifer Murphy questioned why council was told in 2018 there had to be water on site at the pound. The water is currently trucked in.
Ms. Roesner said the water situation is fine and that earlier statement was from a report she had nothing to do with. She said the kennel continues to pass inspections with the existing water situation. “They never would have passed the inspection all those years,” she said.
Other items in the previous reports and discussions she disagreed with were the need for expensive outdoor runs for the dogs.
“They cannot force any shelter or pound to put up outdoor enclosures,” she said.
In fact, she noted she was told they would never be closed because of a decision based on outdoor runs.
As for the water, it needs to be clean and safe. Ms. Roesner did note the well is contaminated, but the water situation is workable with bringing water in for the dogs.
“The bottom line is we are good on the water,” she said. “We are good on everything actually.”
Mayor Murphy said council acted on successive recommendations from staff.
“We have to trust in our staff,” she said.
Councillor Tim Schison backed her up, stating, “we can only make decisions on guidance we are given.”
Councillor Brent Patrick asked how many dogs she is averaging at the pound.
“I know right now I have six and I could picked up another one on the way here,” Ms. Roesner said, adding she has had between 10 and 13 dogs at some times.
“Right now, we are at a time where everybody with COVID wanted a dog,” she said.
There are many dogs now needing homes and larger dogs are traditionally harder to find homes for.
Coun. Patrick said the records council was given show there would be about nine dogs a year in 2017 and 2018 from BV.
“It really comes down to the service we are providing; it stays the same,” he said.
If there are issues with the pound, like a need for a new roof, who will pay for that, he asked.
“The building is very solid,” Ms. Roesner said, noting there is no real maintenance required.
Mayor Murphy said the two issues for council were the departure of several municipal partners in the dog pound and the concern an inspection could be coming necessitating more work on the pound.
“We are still going to provide the same service for the dogs,” Coun. Schison said. “It is jut not in the same location.”
Ms. Roesner said she presented various options to council including operating it as is or leasing it to her. She wants to see the pound stay open in the municipality.
“My fight is for my job – yes – and it is also for those dogs,” she said.
This is a service for the municipality and the residents, she added.
“You might as well shut the arena down and the library down,” she said. “They aren’t making any money.”
Coun. Patrick said it came down to the issue of whether BV should be in the animal shelter business or not.
“My intention is to maintain our service,” he said. “The difference is we are not the brick and mortar anymore.”
Ms. Roesner noted they could also make money with boarding dogs as well since there is the room there.
Mayor Murphy said council would consider the proposal to keep the shelter open or lease the building to Ms. Roesner and let her operate it while retaining ownership of the building.
“We will go in closed,” she said. “We cannot negotiate in open.”
Council had also received a petition with around 250 signatures opposed to the closure of the animal shelter/dog pound.
Council Agrees To Proposal
A release from BV council showed council has agreed to work toward a firm agreement with Ms. Roesner to take over management and operations of the facility, which is anticipated to begin in a few months.
“After receiving withdrawal notifications from two of our partners, council and staff undertook a thorough review of the usage, operating and maintenance costs of the Animal Shelter in Bonnechere Valley,” the release stated. “With the loss of these partners, the cost to the residents of Bonnechere Valley doubled despite an increase to our remaining partners. This led to the conclusion that it was no longer viable to continue to operate the facility. Closing the facility and moving our shelter facility to Pembroke was not an easy decision, though it would give the township greater time to focus on the delivery of other crucial services for our residents.
“Since announcing the closure of this facility, we have received feedback from users and supporters of the animal shelter asking that we reconsider,” the release continued. “We also received a proposal from our current Animal Control Officer to take over management and operations of the facility. We are now in negotiations to determine if she is able to continue the operations of this facility in Bonnechere Valley. Council has agreed to postpone the closure until November 1st, 2022 to allow time for these negotiations.
“We want to thank the many users and supporters of the animal shelter during its years of operation,” the release concluded.
The Leader confirmed with Mrs. Gilchrist the township is in negotiations with Ms. Roesner to formalize her proposal and enter into an agreement. The negotiations have already begun.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader