Current Martin Kidston/Missoula
Citing a poor work environment and inadequate shelter for stray and abandoned animals, the Missoula City Health Department is seeking funding in this year’s city budget to help fund the cost of a new facility. .
On Wednesday, health worker D’Shane Barnett painted a grim picture of conditions at the current animal control shelter, where employees are crammed and cats are subjected to stressful and dangerous environments.
“Our animal control facility is inadequate. It’s not safe for staff and it’s not safe for animals,” Barnett told city council members. “We don’t have the capacity to meet the needs of Missoula County.”
Barnett said animal control workers, including department investigators, are crammed into a small room that also houses cat cages. Cat crates also line the hallway and are now placed outside the dog room.
Stress breeds disease among the shelter’s feline population.
“We are in such need that we literally have cat cages in the hallways. These cats should be in the hallway with passers-by and right next to the dog room,” Barnett said. “We bring in cats and because of the stress associated with that environment, they get sick. Then we have to keep these cats even longer.
The ministry’s budget request said the project was estimated at $2.3 million in 2020. But with the rising cost of materials and labor, it’s now estimated at around $2.7 million. of dollars.
Barnett said the department has about $144,000 set aside for capital improvements and $400,000 set aside in county-committed ARPA funds. He asked the city for $600,000 in ARPA funding last year, but the request was denied.
He is now asking the city to help fund 60% of the project, or about $1.6 million. While the city has grown in size and population, its ability to house more animals has not.
“We have a lot of opportunity for more general animal shelters in Missoula,” said board member Gwen Jones. “It causes a lot of stress on animals and people. But there are tons of needs and limited resources.
Barnett said over the years animal control has taken in and sheltered all kinds of neglected and abandoned animals.
“We had tropical fish, birds and all kinds of creatures. We had a hedgehog. Outside the city limits, we have people who unfortunately give up chickens and goats,” he said.
Barnett added that the department has a foster agreement for the horses it picks up.
“We will stick to that. So far it has worked very well and met our needs,” he said.