Photo by Lizzy Shake
Protesters stand in the rain last week outside City Hall, holding signs in support of keeping Alton’s animal control officer.
ALTON — At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, the fate of Alton Animal Control once again dominated the discussion.
Poncho-clad citizens turned out ahead of the meeting, holding signs in front of City Hall despite the rain. The signs’ slogans read, “With no AC, who do we call for help?” and “Save Animal Control!”
The council previously had approved cuts to the city’s budget, which included cutting the Animal Control Department. Mayor Brant Walker has said the city is looking at working to save animal control and investigating options to ensure the change in service would affect the city as little as possible. Animal control is running business-as-usual through Aug. 1.
“We want to let you know, and everyone else in Alton, that Alton will have animal control,” Walker reiterated at last week’s council meeting.
He said the city will put out a request for proposals, suggesting the possibility of subcontracting the services of a private company.
Local dog rescue volunteer Betsy Clayton questioned the city’s ability to request bids for a job formerly held by a Teamster. She said she was representing 1,167 concerned individuals who signed an online petition to keep animal control. Clayton said she wanted to offer a glimpse of what could happen if Alton lost animal control, and cited statistical evidence from the Alton Animal Control’s operations from 2012-2014 to show how much the city needs the department.
“Without a functioning animal control, the net result would be … 2,212 animals at large in the city from those three years alone,” Clayton said.
She added that the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States claim that one unaltered male cat and one unaltered female cat could potentially result in 600,000 cats in a four-year span, and that two unaltered dogs could produce 2,048 dogs in a four-year span.
Clayton explained the damage this scenario could cause to the new restaurants and efforts to revitalize downtown Alton.
“As we strive to make Alton a place where families can visit, live and work, (it is) the city’s responsibility to make certain it is first and foremost a clean, safe city for those families and their children,” she said at the meeting. “Stray animals will not confine themselves to a poor area, out of sight and out of mind. Stray animals will not care where we do not wish them to go. They will migrate to where they can find food.
“If we save a few dollars for a few years by doing away with our animal control, what is the potential net loss to the city, when families deem Alton an unsafe and unsanitary place to live? “
Jackie Spiker, owner of Club Paws, reiterated this idea, saying, “We can’t sacrifice our city to the point that we can’t recuperate.”
She referenced the dog packs running wild in East St. Louis as an example of a similar-size community that has no animal control.
“It is a huge problem,” Spiker said. “It will deter people from our city.”
Walker responded that he would allow Spiker to look at the request for proposals.
“While Main Street was saved, and I’m thrilled by that, it feels like it was a smokescreen and basically it was more of a cover-up to distract from the fact that we’re making these serious cuts (to police, fire and animal control),” Alton resident Stephanie Schrage said.
After the meeting, the three women stood on the steps of City Hall and discussed the situation.
“We have to wait and look at this proposal they’re putting out to see (if they’re) bidding apples to apples, or apples to oranges,” Spiker said. “My biggest concern … is keeping a functioning animal control in the city of Alton. They have a holding facility. We want to make sure that stays. We want to see what they’re bidding for. Are they bidding for 20 hours a week? Alton Animal Control cannot do part time.”
“Steve (Bosaw) has been (our) animal control officer for eight or nine years,” Clayton added. “He’s built a rapport with the community.”
Bosaw will continue to perform in the Public Works Department if animal control is eliminated.
In 2014, the department conducted 8,170 investigations and activities regarding animal control. More than 30 dogs and cats were reclaimed, and more than 120 were adopted out. 100 violation tickets were issued, and 609 total animals were impounded.