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NL turns to Cedar Valley for future animal services

NORTH LIBERTY– A relationship with the Cedar Valley Humane Society will rescue the City of North Liberty from an unplanned adoption of Iowa City’s proposed cost-sharing plan for a new animal shelter.
At its March 13 meeting, the North Liberty City Council unanimously voted to pursue a contract with the Cedar Valley Humane Society near Cedar Rapids for future animal services incurred when city employees find stray animals within the North Liberty city limits and cannot locate an owner.
In the past, North Liberty street department employees or law enforcement officials have taken stray animals to the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center. But when that organization proposed a $4 million regional facility to replace a building destroyed in the 2008 flood, the City of Iowa City asked its participating Johnson County cities and the county to contribute capital funding for the building and commit to ongoing operation expenses. For North Liberty, it would have meant promising an estimated $167,160 to the building’s construction and just over $43,000 per year in the future, based on the city’s average percentage of use over the last three years.
The request caused at least a little fur to fly; Johnson County supervisors publicly criticized Iowa City for asking for money without offering input into the facility’s design or operation, and North Liberty city councilors encouraged City Administrator Ryan Heiar to explore other options for animal services.
Heiar and North Liberty Streets Superintendent Don Colony visited the Cedar Valley Humane Society off Mount Vernon Road in Linn County, and returned to the council with a report.
“They can provide us with all the services we receive now and potentially some additional ones,” Heiar told the council. “The facility is extremely clean and well-kept. They seem to be on top of things.”
Heiar said the facility’s live release rates beats national averages (42 percent for most shelters) by finding either the owner, a permanent home or foster care for 70 percent of the animals it takes in.
“And they are not anticipating building a new facility in the near future because they have space available. Financially, and from the service side of things, it seems to make sense to work with this facility,” Heiar said.
Heiar also said the Cedar Valley Humane Society management team was likewise impressed with North Liberty’s handling of stray animals. North Liberty staff will house them in a kennel for a few days in the streets department shop, take photographs and record intake information, and do all they can to locate the animals’ owners, including using two different types of microchip readers.
Colony said he has been very pleased with the city’s past relationship with the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center, but the move to Cedar Valley was purely a business decision.
“I’ve been real happy with Iowa City. They have helped us a lot over the years, but they just want more than we can afford right now,” said Colony.
Heiar indicated the staff at Cedar Valley Humane Society was also willing to do additional public education and marketing events in North Liberty to keep the public informed on the city’s animal procedures.
Council member Gerry Kuhl moved to direct Heiar to develop a contract with the Cedar Valley Humane Society, based on Heiar’s report and the potential savings to the city’s budget.
“The estimated $22,000 cost comes in under the $25,000 budgeted in the FY13 budget,” Kuhl said. “I don’t need a Cadillac facility, I just need good animal care and I think this facility meets that objective.”