Iowa City Animal Control researches peer cities


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For Iowa City, a single operator of the city's animal-control services may not be enough.

Research of peer communities conducted by the City Manager's Office shows nine of the 14 cities surveyed have animal-control services that contract with local humane societies. In contrast, Iowa City runs an animal shelter itself, without collaboration from nonprofit entities.

The City Council will meet today to discuss options for the city's animal services as well as a new animal shelter. The city's original facility was destroyed by the 2008 flood, and since then, animals have been housed in a temporary facility.

The City Manager's Office conducted research on cities similar to Iowa City in size and population, looking into what kind of animal-control services existed and which would be most beneficial to Iowa City, said Adam Bentley, an administrative assistant to the city manager.

"We talk to private entities all the time, and there's no private entity that's expressed interest," said the Director of Animal Services Misha Goodman. "We have seen no interest in somebody taking this over. It's quite an expensive venture to do."

Similarly, Cedar Rapids operates animal services independently from the Cedar Valley Humane Society, said Diane Webber, the program manager for Cedar Rapids Animal Care and Control.

While Cedar Rapids approached the society for a partnership, it was unable to contribute because it was too expensive, Webber said.

But Goodman said the independent organization is able to provide adequate services even without additional help.

"We have a fantastic service," she said, and the organization is able to do licensing, provide safe adoptions, and educational services.

Though the Iowa City shelter receives funds from Coralville, Solon, and Johnson County, it accepts animals from any town in the county regardless of funding contributions. Iowa City taxpayers contributed 68 percent of funding in fiscal 2010.

While there's no direct evidence suggesting that collaboration with a nonprofit entity is the most effective way of operation, most cities surveyed do operate with partnerships, Bentley said.

The survey was conducted as a way collect information on what kind of services community members would most benefit from.

The overcrowded animal center has been a long-standing problem Goodman and other city officials hope to finally address.

The new multimillion-dollar facility has received $1.4 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a 7,000-square-foot facility, which will be located at 3800 Napoleon Lane.

"We'll have to have some discussion about how we want to shape the animal shelter in the future," City Councilor Mike Wright said. "I still think it's going to be incumbent on the city to build some sort of a new facility. The facility is what we need to address first, and we can work at operating models in the future."

And Goodman has big hopes for animal service's future.

"Well, ideally, I would like to see a new facility built that accommodates a regional model, the various jurisdictions within Johnson County budgeting for that service and/or their animals, and I would like to see Iowa City perform its service," she said. "We've been doing it for a long time, and I feel that we've been doing it very well."

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