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Riverton City moves forward on animal control

Aug 30, 2017 11:42AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

Stone Ridge vet tech Shannon with rescued kitty Jupiter. Stone Ridge staff donate service and medical care to local animal rescues. (Marnie Cannon)

Gallery: animal rescues [2 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Mariden Williams | mariden.w@mycityjournals.com

After Riverton City broke away from Salt Lake County Animal Control Services in July, there was one big question remaining: what to do next? The city's contract with the county expires in January; after that, the city will need to provide its own animal control. Currently, the Riverton City Council plans to address this issue by hiring two new city code enforcement officials and partnering with a separate entity for shelter services—likely either Stone Ridge Veterinary Clinic or the city of South Jordan.

The animal control equation has two main factors. First, catching the animals; and second, housing them until they can be claimed. The city council’s solution to animal apprehension is straightforward. Council members plan to hire two additional city code enforcement officers—who ordinarily handle such problems as inappropriately placed signs, weeds, and other general community complaints—furnish them with a truck and cross-train them in animal control.

Hiring two new code enforcement officers accomplishes two objectives, in the view of Councilman Trent Staggs. Currently, Riverton has only one code enforcement officer to handle the complaints of the entire city. Officials hope that hiring these two new officers will allow for more proactive code enforcement. "They might have one or two (animal control) callouts a day, but then, while they're out and about, they can take a look for code enforcement violation,” said Staggs.

At their July 11 meeting, the Riverton City Council discussed some of the possibilities for housing impounded animals. Riverton has no dedicated animal shelter of its own, and building one would be pricey; it could potentially cost as much as $2 million. The city council currently seems to favor contracting to share shelter space with either South Jordan City, or Riverton-based veterinary clinic Stone Ridge.

Based on figures pulled from Riverton's time with Salt Lake County Animal Services, it is estimated that contracting with South Jordan would cost about $69,000 a year, while Stone Ridge would cost about $123,000.

While South Jordan is willing to partner with Riverton, such an arrangement couldn't last forever. "They recognize that the day is going to come when they're going to reach the capacity in their own shelter, and they're gonna have to boot us out of it," said City Attorney and interim City Manager Ryan Carter.

Although Stone Ridge is much more expensive than South Jordan's animal shelter, most of the cost would be covered not by taxpayer money, but by fees charged to individual residents upon picking up their impounded animals.

"Whatever Stone Ridge is charging, we should be able to recoup on the fees," said Staggs. "With the revenue from licensing, from vaccinations, it should be relatively cost-neutral."

It should also be noted that South Jordan and Stone Ridge are providing very different levels of service. Normal shelters tend to be rather bare-bones; in many cases, animals are not taken outside, and are expected to defecate inside their kennels. Diets also tend to be a piecemeal affair.

"It's not uncommon for some shelters to receive a lot of donated foods  from people that leave things behind, and they just indiscriminately feed them to the animals, which isn't always very good for their health," said Carter.

At Stone Ridge, animal control intakes would be vaccinated for bordetella and housed "exactly like we would our boarding patients," according to Marnie Cannon, one of Stone Ridge’s owners. "As far as we're concerned, instead of being a shelter animal, they're another boarded animal to us, and so we would treat them with the highest possible care."

Boarded animals are taken outdoors twice a day for exercise and bathroom time, and before claimed animals are sent home, each one is given a complimentary bath and physical examination. The animals are fed Science Diet and housed in air-conditioned indoor runs with heated floors; if Riverton does end up contracting with Stone Ridge, 25 additional runs will be constructed.

"I think this is a great example of kind of a public-private partnership," said Staggs on the prospect of partnering with Stone Ridge. "They get business, it's better service and lower cost for our residents, and it's a win-win."

The city council is seeking more information before it takes any definitive action, but it agrees that bringing animal control back into Riverton's hands will be a very good thing in the long run. Response times should be faster with in-house animal control officers, and residents won't have to drive nearly as far to pick up impounded animals, particularly if the city partners with a local business such as Stone Ridge.

And, of course, there's the ever-enticing prospect of saving money.

"If you look at it simplistically, we're out about $100,000 on two employees, versus almost $300,000 on a contract with Salt Lake County, which is going to $400,000 next year. So, I think there's going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings in year one, and again, I think we're going to get better responses, better care," said Staggs.  
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