Southfield contracts with Oakland County for animal control

Almost Home must be out by Nov. 16

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published November 5, 2019

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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SOUTHFIELD — Officials recently announced that the city will be partnering with the Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center.

Police Chief Elvin Barren made the announcement at an Oct. 28 City Council meeting, which came after an announcement made earlier this year that the city would be parting ways with Almost Home, the animal rescue that operates Southfield’s animal control shelter.

The council unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with Oakland County to provide animal care services for the city at the Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center in Pontiac.

City Administrator Fred Zorn said in council documents that the annual costs associated with the agreement are expected to range from $33,000 to $66,000, depending on animal intake numbers, the duration of their stay and services provided to the animals.

Zorn said in the documents that the agreement stipulates that the county will provide proper food, water, shelter and humane care for all stray and surrendered animals impounded by the city that are brought to the shelter.

The agreement is good through Sept. 30, 2022, but officials said either party may terminate or cancel the agreement for any reason with 30 days’ written notice.

“I did have an opportunity to go visit the shelter, where I was assured this community is a state-of-the-art facility,” Barren said. “The staff is very accommodating … also the fact that the county has coordinated with other police departments, and they are satisfied with the level of service.”

Councilman Michael Mandelbaum asked if Barren could elaborate on what residents should do if they find a stray animal or wish to surrender one of their own.

Barren said the Southfield Police Department will still maintain an animal control officer, and the department is working on adding an additional officer to the team.

“Residents can call the Southfield Police Department, and we’ll pick up the animal, if need be. We do encourage the residents to transport the animal to (Pontiac) themselves if it’s safe,” Barren said.

Barren also said that residents can take animals to the city’s former shelter, 25503 Clara Lane, and an officer will arrange to meet them there.

In a previous report, city officials said that the city would be cutting ties with Almost Home because the organization does not provide the level of service that the city expects.

The shelter’s tenure with Southfield goes back to 2006, when co-founder Gail Montgomery-Schwartz approached the city to use its old, abandoned dog pound to operate a no-kill animal shelter. At the time, Southfield police had used the building to hold stray and rescued animals before taking them to the Michigan Humane Society in Westland.

Montgomery-Schwartz said previously that she and her team have saved countless animals, and the partnership took the burden of animal care off the city’s shoulders.

Southfield Deputy City Administrator John Michrina said in a previous report that under the terms of the operating agreement between the city and Almost Home, the city did not contribute to the operation costs of Almost Home other than by providing a location for the shelter to operate.

In January 2017, the Southfield City Council unanimously voted to give the facility a facelift, allocating $300,000 to renovate and expand the building for Almost Home’s use. The organization was moved to the John Grace Community Center, 21030 Indian Road, while the renovations were completed.

During the renovations, Montgomery-Schwartz said previously, the packed schedule didn’t allow her to do as much fundraising as she would have liked, creating a $100,000 deficit.

Michrina said previously that the city was unaware of the shelter’s financial issues, but if the shelter were to cease to operate, the city would continue with another group without any interruption of service to the residents.

Southfield Community Relations Director Michael Manion said at a July City Council meeting that Almost Home’s proposal was rejected and that the city would be moving in a different direction.

“Accordingly, the city determined that it was in its best interest to revisit and review the existing animal services agreement and other possible options and alternatives to meet the needs of the community,” Zorn said in the council documents.

Barren said the organization must be out by Nov. 16.

Montgomery-Schwartz said that Almost Home will still work to rescue animals, just in another location. She said they are working on finding another building with the proper zoning requirements necessary for an animal shelter.

“We didn’t have much notice, so we’re looking for a place. It’s hard to get zoned,” she said. “We’re looking for donors to help us buy the building, or investors. We’re completely broke because all our money is going to rehabilitating the dogs, and we have to rehabilitate them in order to adopt them out, so it takes a lot of time and money. We’re in a deficit right now.”

Montgomery-Schwartz said that if people want to stay up to date on Almost Home or donate to the cause, they can visit the organization’s website, almosthomeanimals.org.

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