Failing to privatize Louisville Metro Animal Services, Mayor Greg Fischer announced Monday the city has rejected a proposal by a non-profit group to take over the agency. Instead, the administration will immediately renew its search for a new director to turn around the dysfunctional department.
Fischer previously planned to outsource much of animal services’ functions such as adoption and sheltering after a scathing review of the department found it had poor facilities, inadequate staffing and an unacceptable euthanasia rate.
“Our goal is to develop Metro Animal Services into a world-class agency,” Fischer said in a news release. “We must now strive to find a leader who is innovative and experienced to make that happen. We need a leader who can bring together animal advocates and our entire community.”
The animal welfare group No Kill Louisville was the sole bidder for the contract, however, a review committee determined they didn’t meet the requirements set forth in the request for proposals.
No Kill Louisville President Jessica Reid says the group submitted a detailed bid and was excited to make the necessary changes, but the mayor is flip-flopping at the peril of local pets.
“It just seems like no matter what we do it’s never good enough. They asked for help. We can help,” she says. “If they want fosters, we can send fosters down there. But they have to decide if the fosters are okay, if that’s what they want, if that’s what the volunteers are allowed to do, what programs can happen, which ones can’t. We only have so much control of how we can help.”
The 3-member review panel decided against awarding No Kill the city contract based on several factors such as it being an all-volunteer organization that lacked experience operating a shelter or managing a staff. The committee also noted No Kill had requested Metro Government provide $800,000 to $1 million above the proposed contract to manage shelter and adoptions.
Reid says the group estimated taking over operations at the beleaguered shelter would cost about $2 million and they had requested the city make a number of one-time fixes to its current facilities.
The search for a new director will continue using resumes submitted several months ago when the Fischer administration announced its initial search. At the time, however, Fischer was not satisfied with the candidates and delayed that decision in order to the widen the field.
“They didn’t get who they wanted so they’re flipping—again,” says Reid. “Even though we followed what the audit wanted it wasn’t good enough. For whatever reason. They never had a conversation with us, never did anything. So it kind of feels like we weren’t ever really in the game.”
Seeking to hire a “powerful and dynamic” director who can be innovative, Fischer’s Chief of Community Building Sadiqa Reynolds says there was nothing bad about No Kill’s bid, but the administration found their perspective on running a shelter was unacceptable.
“It’s just a heck of a risk to take with the task in front of us and what we all want to do—and this includes No Kill—we want to make sure we turn this agency around,” she says. “I feel confident they’re going to remain a partner with us along with other rescue agencies in the city.”
During the press conference, no one established a structure for how the search will be conducted or a timeline on when a new director will be hired, however, Reynolds indicated they hope to offer the position by the end of July.
The administration did highlight improvements since Fischer took office, including better communication with rescue groups that has led to more adoptions as well as staff responses to the recent threat of floods at the shelter.
Councilman Kelly Downard, R-16, reserved criticism of reopening the search with the same field of candidates that were previously overlooked, but added the city is running to the end of the line on ways to fixi the agency.
Local animal rights advocates and residents, however, appear to be very frustrated with the mayor changing his course of action and effectively resetting the process.
“I’m very disappointed in your decision to reject (No Kill Louisville’s) bid to take over (animal services. I, along with thousands of others, voted for you in hopes that you would help make Louisville become no kill. I believe that now we are taking steps back rather than moving forward,” resident Stacey Monroe wrote on the mayor’s official Facebook page. “Innocent animals will die while you continue your search for someone with a college degree who needs a paycheck. I am not sure how much more “innovative” you can get than by letting an organization with 15,000 followers who love animals and love to save animals, take over MAS.”