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Hoisingtons TNR program questioned in light of costs
new vlc feral cat courtesy photo for Hoisington TNR
Courtesy Hoisingtons new trap, neuter, and return program has cost the city more in 2015 compared to the previous year, but with the aim of ultimately lowering veterinary bills the city pays in the future. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Concerns over increased costs incurred by the City of Hoisington to Hoisington Veterinary Hospital for activities related to the trap, neuter and return program for stray cats were discussed at the city council meeting Monday.  

During the consideration of appropriations, Jim Morris asked about billing from the veterinary hospital, stating that he had done a little research, and found that while the month of July’s bill was reasonable, the monthly bill had then gone from $311 last year to a whopping $1,300 in two months.   

City Manager Jonathan Mitchell, whose wife, Lindsay Mitchell, is the new owner of Hoisington Veterinary Hospital, responded to the concern, stating that billing is tied to usage and the amount of animals being brought in.  

“Our current animal control officer has been very aggressive in carrying out the duties assigned her and making headway with the problem, “ he said.   
The TNR program was approved by council members in March, 2015, after a presentation by Don Doerschlag, the city’s former animal control officer.   The city then included the details in its call for bids in April to secure a contract for municipal pound services. The previous contract was with Hoisington Veterinary Hospital, but under other ownership.
But Hoisington Veterinary Hospital was the only responding business out of six requests sent out. At the April 27 meeting, the city manager excused himself so the council could move ahead with the process without any worries of conflict of interest.   The contract was approved and would be effective July 1, 2015.   

In August, Doerschlag announced he would be stepping away from his position.  The city hired Dolores Kipper as the new Code Enforcement officer, starting Sept. 9.  

In the month of October  40 cats were caught, Mitchell said, each being kept an average of three days. During that time they were spayed or neutered, given a rabies shot, had their ear clipped for identification purposes, and in most cases returned to the area they were trapped from.  This was done, as proposed, to keep the rodent problem in check, saving the city the consequences from a different sort of pest problem down the road.

Councilman Jim Sekavec asked why female cats were being treated also.  Mitchell then restated information Kipper had presented during her update at the Nov. 23 meeting.  In light of the efforts being made, Lindsay Mitchell has agreed to charge the same amount for treating the females cats as the males.  The fee agreed on is the same that would be charged for euthanizing the animal.  In addition, while Kipper is making diligent strides to round up the strays, Mitchell has agreed to provide pound services throughout the week where in the past, the city was charged a higher fee if animals were delivered on non-contracted days of the week.  

Investment in community
Wednesday, Mitchell sent out an email to council members after reviewing numbers for the animal impound program from 2014 to this year.  He noted in the communication discrepancies between the record-keeping methods of the city’s current and previous animal control staff members, and record-keeping mechanisms between the current and previous owners of the Hoisington Veterinary Hospital.  While numbers didn’t line up exactly, he noted the information was fairly accurate, and noted that upon review, the bills between the two years were significantly different.  

At first glance, it appeared the billing had nearly doubled, from $4,251 in 2014 to $9,404 in 2015.  However, the 2015 amount included recovered fees in the amount of $2,343 from fees associated from the rabies clinic.  Also, $690 was recovered from a criminal case involving just one dog.  Taking these amounts into consideration, that brought the 2015 bill down to $6,371.  

“The expenses incurred this year are significantly higher than last year’s totals and this is due largely to the efforts of our current code enforcement officer,” he wrote. “Dolores is making an effort to address the stray cat issue we have been struggling with for years.”  

He echoed his statement of Monday night, that through the TNR program, the city hopes to see the cat population and veterinary expenses decrease in the future.

“Unfortunately, these efforts are increasing our expenses today but these expenses could be seen as an investment in our community.”