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Fort Fairfield Severs Ties With 

Central Aroostook Humane Society

Sets Up Their Own Animal Shelter Under a Voluntarism Model

By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, December 28, 2011

After receiving a fairly condescending letter and invoice for over $6,400 from the Central Aroostook Humane Society, the town of Fort Fairfield recently decided to provide their own shelter for stray cats and dogs in-house - dubbed “Canine Clink” - rather than utilizing that service located in Presque Isle.

“I think about the collaborative spirit on how we are able to work together as a community and I think this is one of those issues that we really need the community to come together around to try to figure out what's the best way to meet this need. There are citizens out there who have concerns and they're legitimate concerns,” said Fort Fairfield Town Manager, Dan Foster. “We don't have enough money to do everything so, like with the compromises we undertake in our road paving decisions, we have to figure out the most efficient way to spend what tax money we have. All our department heads are aware that with the resources they have, they are responsible for providing their services in the most efficient way possible. So we're constantly looking at how we stretch those dollars.”

Foster says as it relates to the Central Aroostook Humane Society, that is not how the process works. “Basically what we get is a letter that says, 'State law mandates each municipality must either support an existing animal shelter or maintain a facility of their own. Should you refuse to contract with Central Aroostook Humane Society, animals from your community will be refused admittance to the Central Aroostook Humane Society shelter. The amount requested from your community is $6,484.00.’”

Foster indicated it was not exclusively a financial issue. “It's not just about the fact that we don't have the money. It's more than that, it's about: is this a good use of the money that we have? If you look at the services that are being rendered, if someone has a cat that is being taken over there, they're going to charge him $15.00 for the cat and $25 for a dog, if part of a member community.”

Last year, Fort Fairfield sent five dogs and twenty-one cats to the Humane Society. At the current fee schedule, that amounts to $440.00. “So why would we spend over $6,400? It's not equitable. We're being asked to subsidize a service we're not receiving.”

“The Central Aroostook Humane Society decides what level of service they feel is appropriate and they simply send us a bill and say to us you either pay this bill, or you're stuck with your animals,” said Foster. “For me, it's a huge disconnect between the people who provide the service and the people who have to pay for it. As you watch what is going on in government in general today, you see that over and over again.”

“I think that there needs to be a much more collaborative process in terms of what our relationship is with the Humane Society that we currently do not have,” said Foster. “I don't think that it is equitable to ask the taxpayers to pay $6,400 where if it was a private citizen it would only cost $440.00. This has nothing to do with whether or not the Central Aroostook Humane Society does a good job, or cares; because they do. The decision was not either vindictive or mean-spirited. We're simply dealing with tough issues and we're trying to figure out how we can best utilize the limited resources that we have.”

Foster admits there has been quite a campaign regarding Fort Fairfield and the “terrible” thing that they have done and feels bad that is happening. “It is not our intent to make anybody look bad, we're just trying to take care of the issue as best as we can and as we're required to by law. I think we can find a way to make this work without negatively impacting the taxpayer.”

The town's animal policy, as stated on their website, says, “This new policy was not arrived at in a frivolous manner. The cost to the Fort Fairfield taxpayer is such that it necessitated review. The Animal Control Officer welcomes the opportunity to work with volunteers within Fort Fairfield to establish a program that deals with stray animals in a humane and loving manner.”

“Now, I think that we may need to put that in larger font because nobody has taken us up on that.”

Foster and Fort Fairfield Police Chief/Animal Control Officer, Bill Campbell are working to establish a policy where people can step forward and donate some of their time or money for the purpose of taking care of the few strays per year the town is required by law to attend to. “We as public employees will work to facilitate that process,” said Foster. “The Chief is more than willing to meet with those who are truly concerned about the stray cats and dogs in our community. He's willing to work with them in terms of trying to establish a policy to take care of this need that they're concerned about, they just need to step up and be willing to participate. That's the direction that we need to be going in.”

Rather than sending stray cats and dogs to Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield police will be transporting them to a sheltered facility behind the town office in Fort Fairfield. “We first try to determine who the owner is,” said Foster. “After a set period of time if the owner does not claim the pet we will put the animal up for adoption.”

With a 4 - 1 vote, the Fort Fairfield town council recently approved establishing a separate account where donations may be accepted for the Canine Clink animal shelter in Fort Fairfield; Kim Murchison was the only dissenting vote. “I'm not in agreement with this at all. I think the town of Fort Fairfield should support the animal shelter [in Presque Isle].” she said. “I've thought a lot about it; the animal shelter has always been there and they're experienced. They know how to take care of animals. We're just a bunch of citizens trying to take on something that maybe will be a burden at some point. Six thousand dollars is a lot of money but it does support a good cause. We support a lot of other causes that I don't think are as important.”

“I feel pretty strongly that we have a pretty big responsibility to these animals,” said town council chair, David McCrea. “This is a citizen issue and Fort Fairfield is certainly not a heartless town that does not want to take care of its animals. I'm sure we can get a fund set up to do what is right by these animals.”

Currently, the Chief of Police is responsible for providing for the care, feeding and cleaning of any impounded strays. “I think that when we get an animal we all will pitch in to take care of them,” said Foster. “We would love to have volunteers to help with cats, they are the biggest concern right now. Anyone who is interested in helping should contact Chief Campbell.”


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