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Volunteer veterinarian Michael Moulton examines Ike, a stray pug taken in for treatment, while lead animal control officer Amanda Schutts watches at the Humane Society of Scott County in Davenport on Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018.

The city of Davenport is ending its long partnership with the Humane Society of Scott County for handling animal control enforcement after negotiations of the services contract have failed.

For years, the city has outsourced enforcement of animal control to the Humane Society in exchange for monthly payments. That put the organization in charge of dispatching its employees to deal with various nuisance complaints, pick up dead animals and provide other services outlined in the city’s animal enforcement law.

Now, city leaders are proposing a hybrid system in which four new city employees are hired under the neighborhood services department to deal with animal control code enforcement. Storage of captured strays could be overseen by King’s Harvest Pet Rescue No Kill Shelter under an agreement still being ironed out, though city officials are also proposing that Davenport invest in its own brick-and-mortar building to eventually house animals brought in by dogcatchers.

Davenport aldermen were briefed on the situation during a Tuesday afternoon meeting. Concerns centered on the mechanics of re-routing animal control calls, availability of service, and the short time frame to make something happen.

Alderwoman Rita Rawson, 5th Ward, questioned how the outcome would impact the Humane Society considering Davenport is its largest supplier of animals.

“That makes sense for them from a financial point of view?” she asked incredulously.

In late March, the Humane Society’s lawyer sent a 90-day cancellation letter saying the city had promised to eventually raise the monthly payments the organization was receiving. Under the current contract, the Humane Society is paid roughly $223,000 per year to manage animal control within the city limits.

“The Society values the relationship with the city of Davenport and hopes the parties can reach a mutually satisfactory agreement,” the letter said.

City officials say the Humane Society wanted about $750,000 per year to continue providing the service. Calls seeking comment from the Humane Society’s executive director went unreturned as of Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Davenport Finance Director Brandon Wright said the city does not expect for there to be “any lapse in service” enforcing animal control. But he added that much still needs to be done in a short period of time.

“We’re working hard to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” Wright said. “Right now there’s a lot of moving parts that kind of all need to come together, and we’re putting them together as quickly as we can.”

One of those moving parts needs to be addressed by the Davenport Civil Service Commission, which oversees public employee job requirements and hiring processes. A special meeting is scheduled Thursday, during which the commission will consider amending the job description for the city’s code enforcement officers. Wright says that change could allow current employees to temporarily deal with animal control.

The estimated cost increase for the city for taking on animal control enforcement is about $250,000, Wright said. But he said the city can do things cheaper by hiring its own enforcement officers for the job, adding that there are benefits to be had for making animal control more of an in-house service.

“At the end of the day we have a responsibility on our side to do this service differently for far less money if we can,” Wright said. “And under that model we absolutely can.”

Wright said he had hoped to get a 90-day extension on the contract with the Humane Society to give the city more time to find an alternative solution. But that deal fell through after the organization asked to be reimbursed at roughly triple the current rate for the duration of the temporary contract, Wright said.

And while several factors remain unclear, Wright says he’s not concerned about an epidemic of cats and dogs roaming the streets if issues arise that delay a permanent animal control solution. 

“I’m relatively confident that we can deal as a city one way or another with a relatively small amount of animals for a relatively small period of time,” Wright said. “We’ll find a way to contract it. We’ll find a way to make it work.”

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