Wilmington’s search for animal control vendor continues

Proving to be harder than initially thought, the city of Wilmington hopes to have a list of potential animal control providers by next week. 

Delaware SPCA currently provides animal control within city limits, however, the nonprofit is ending its 120-year partnership with the city this summer. Since the shelter went “no kill” in 2009, and is no longer euthanizing animals for space, it says the city’s $250,000 only covers the animal control officers’ salaries, and not the long term care of the animals.

Mayor James Baker says the city does not have the resources to establish its own animal control program. Kent County SPCA handles animal control for all three counties. KCSPCA says the city has reached out to them, but a deal has not been brokered.

Meantime, the mayor says the city has held discussions with area animal shelters, including KCSPCA, to gain “deeper insight into the provision of animal control services,” according to a news release issued today.

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As a result of these discussions, Baker says several key issues have surfaced that might inhibit the city’s chances of finding a vendor, the biggest being Wilmington’s breed specific pit bull laws. Wilmington requires registration of pit bulls or pit bull mixes, in addition to licensing the dog, while placing additional requirements on pit bull owners.

The mayor stated in the news release, “no animal shelter wants to be in a position to enforce restrictive laws that almost guarantee that a shelter will be filled only with pit bulls versus a wide range of dog breeds.” 

Mayor Baker says he will ask city council to amend its law to leave the city’s restrictions and requirements on all dog breeds in place, but repeal the breed specific pit bull rules adopted 12 years ago when pit bull fighting was more prevalent.

“We will continue to hold pet owners accountable for their pets’ behaviors, and will hold irresponsible owners accountable,” said Mayor Baker. “However, we can place the city in a better position now by eliminating the extra layer of regulation that we place on pit bulls.”

Another hurdle the city faces is the “no kill” status among the majority of Delaware’s shelters. “No kill” means shelters only euthanize 10 percent of its animal population. Consequently, shelters don’t always have the capacity or resources to care for animals brought in by animal control officers, as cats and dogs stay longer term.

Finally, the city wants a guarantee from a potential animal control vendor that animals seized in Wilmington would be taken to a shelter located either within, or a reasonable distance from, the city so owners can retrieve their animals, limiting the city’s options even more. 

The city says it averages 75 service calls a month, including picking up stray pets, rescuing abused animals and seizing animals whose owners are in violation of Wilmington’s licensing laws. Delaware SPCA’s animal control contract with Wilmington ends June 30.

“First” ran a story about Delaware’s pet population and the “no kill” movement last month. You can watch the story below: 

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