I’m writing this week to ensure there are no misconceptions about my administration’s relationship with the Hi Tor Animal Care Center, Inc. First, it must be noted that a letter of intent (LOI) to construct a new shelter in Pomona was forged by this office with Hi Tor last summer. The comprehensive management agreement will significantly enhance services and care for dogs and cats that come into the facility. As a result of the LOI, Hi Tor will design and build a new facility on the County-owned land, on which the shelter has been operating continuously since 1973.
Despite the County’s fragile financial situation, my administration is committed to significantly improving the way animals are cared for while they await adoption. This agreement with Hi Tor leadership will increase the number of animals adopted by local residents and improve shelter conditions for the hundreds of dogs and cats.
As part of the LOI, new construction, including its design and building of the structure, would be funded entirely by non-County entities. Hi Tor would be required to provide a bond for the entire cost of construction prior to breaking ground. In addition, Hi Tor must have all plans and contracts approved by the County. In return for the completed construction of the new facility, the County would agree to enter into a long-term management agreement with Hi Tor.
With the LOI, the County – without contribution of any taxpayer funds – would accept the donation of the new shelter from Hi Tor.
Unfortunately, a recent attempt by the some legislators to provide $500,000 in funding for the construction of a new shelter is ill-conceived. As written, the resolution would create a capital project to support construction of a new facility. The problem is, the proposal has no funding attached to it. While the intent of the resolution is well-meaning, the Legislature has not appropriated any real dollars for Hi Tor. In simple terms, the legislators created a savings account with no money in it!
In addition, there are a number of other legal hurdles that are inherent as part of this resolution. That said, we are committed working with the legislature, Hi-Tor and any other interested parties to find a way to build these animals a new home.
Many people don’t know that New York State requires every city, village and town to have an animal control officer, also known as a dog catcher, and an animal shelter. (This is a prime example of New York’s infamous unfunded mandates) More than forty years ago, the County offered to centralize shelter services through Hi Tor for the convenience of the taxpayers. Today, Rockland County provides more than $47,000 in annual funding to Hi Tor, far more than any town or village kicks in. Oddly, while municipalities are legally mandated to provide money to the shelter, the County of Rockland is not – yet, we provide the most. I call on town and village leaders to step-up their financial contributions to Hi Tor.
I have expressed a commitment to improving Hi Tor since my first days as a County legislator, promoting fundraising efforts and even sponsoring a 2012 resolution to make repairs to the shelter structure. My family’s Cocker Spaniel – Princess – came to the Day home from Hi Tor. As County Executive, my administration will continue our work with Hi Tor President Lizanne Fiorentino and her Board of Directors to build a new shelter, increase adoptions, save more lives and prevent animal suffering – all in the most fiscally responsible way possible.
The effort to construct a new animal shelter is not just about housing lost and homeless pets. It is also about public safety while continuing the 40-year collaboration between Hi Tor and Rockland County to minimize the number of pets that have to be euthanized and maximize the number of pets adopted. By providing a facility for both pets and people that will be more spacious, more comfortable and more efficient, the dogs and cats will be better cared for and the public will have a shelter that we can all be proud of.
Make no mistake: I am committed to doing the right thing for our animals in a comprehensive, proper and fiscally-responsible manner.