City to fund Royal Oak Animal Shelter through fiscal year-end

Officials seek long-term solution

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published September 24, 2019

  McGee, a male domestic shorthair who arrived at the Royal Oak Animal Shelter June 1, relaxes in his cage at the shelter July 13.

McGee, a male domestic shorthair who arrived at the Royal Oak Animal Shelter June 1, relaxes in his cage at the shelter July 13.

File photo by Sarah Wojcik

 Sonny, a German shepherd who arrived at the shelter May 16, props himself up in his cage July 13.

Sonny, a German shepherd who arrived at the shelter May 16, props himself up in his cage July 13.

File photo by Sarah Wojcik

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ROYAL OAK — The Royal Oak Animal Shelter’s financial model desperately needs reworking.

Despite fundraising efforts to bolster the $120,000 annual budget, the animal shelter is in the red. Next year, Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue estimated, the organization would fall approximately $60,000 short.

“We’ve kind of emphasized that the animal shelter needs to find a way to fund itself, and this year, we’re running out of money,” O’Donohue said. “We expect that this fiscal year, it’s going to be short about just over $30,000.”

During the Sept. 9 City Commission meeting, Commissioner Kyle DuBuc requested that the item be added to the agenda. After an update from O’Donohue, the body unanimously approved funding the shelter through the end of the fiscal year; however, it made clear that the payout is to be a one-time deal due to necessity.

During the meeting, O’Donohue explained that a $101,000 donation bequeathed to the organization from an individual’s will in 2014 has run dry. The Police Department’s annual charitable golf outing, which traditionally generates $60,000 and has solely supported the animal shelter the last two years, also isn’t enough.

“Years and years ago, before I paid attention to the goings-on of the City Commission, they made the decision to have volunteers run the animal shelter to keep it going when the city was making some tough financial cuts,” O’Donohue said.

Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier said the shift in funding took place in the early 2000s.

The Royal Oak Animal Shelter is a city service managed by the Police Department, specifically the deputy chief of services, and is operated by a part-time manager, four part-time employees and volunteers. It has the capacity for eight dogs and 30 cats.

“Over the years, it has been a challenge,” O’Donohue said. “I remember when I did it. You had issues with animals that shouldn’t have been adopted got adopted, warehousing of animals at the animal shelter, volunteers who actually were hoarding animals at their homes from the shelter.”

Over the last couple of years, he said, an employee in the City Manager’s Office created a strategic plan for the shelter, which included a recommendation to hire an animal shelter manager.

“We kind of had those — sort of, but not really — so we hired a legitimate animal shelter manager,” O’Donohue said. “That manager, (Jodie Ellison), came on board in early 2018, and she’s done a very good job.”

He said Deputy Chief Michael Frazier is “very happy” with Ellison’s decisions and the progress made in the shelter, which includes an increase in cleanliness, efficiency and the number of adoptions.

“The problem continues to be how to fund it,” he said. “Since January, I think we’ve had from the animal shelter committee $6,000 from their (fundraising) donations. It’s just not enough.”

DuBuc said the city would have to formulate a plan for the next fiscal year; otherwise, it would have to explore alternatives.

“Clearly, it’s an important community asset that we need to ... figure out how to sustain it or transition it, whatever is the best option for the community,” he said. 

O’Donohue said Oakland County is not interested in managing the Royal Oak Animal Shelter. If the shelter were to close and the county took over animal control services, loose pets would be turned over to the Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center in Pontiac.

“I think we can crack this nut here,” Fournier said. “We just need to put focus on it.”

The Royal Oak Animal Shelter is located at 1515 N. Edgeworth Ave., near 12 Mile and North Campbell roads. It is open 4-7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays.

For more information, visit the Royal Oak Animal Shelter’s Facebook page or call the shelter at (248) 548-3058.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.

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