The new $20 million Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center in Derwood is slated to open on Nov. 1, Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said at a County Council Public Safety Committee hearing Thursday.
The county has contracted with the Montgomery County Humane Society to continue operating the current animal shelter on Rothgeb Drive until March 1, five months after the new shelter opens. Two shelters — old and new — will be open simultaneously during the transition months.
The Montgomery County Humane Society has run the county shelter since the 1960s, providing animal services such as adoption, neutering and licensing on a $1.6 million annual budget.
What role the nonprofit will play in the new shelter has not yet been decided, Manger said, but it will help with the move to the new facility.
“There’s going to have to be some overlap during the transition,” Manger told Chairman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) and Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large), both committee members. “We will likely be operating both shelters for some period of time. I don’t think it’s going to be months, by any means, but it could be a couple of weeks or more.”
Councilman Roger Beliner (D-Dist. 1), a committee member, was not at the meeting.
One of the major changes at the new shelter will be the position of agency director. It no longer will be filled on a rotating basis by a sworn police captain. Instead, it will be a non-sworn permanent position in the police department.
The county is running a background check on “our best candidate,” Manger said, and if all goes well, there will be a new director within two weeks.
The new, larger shelter will cost more money to run, but Manger and others in the police department said there were ways to recoup that money besides depending on taxpayers. One example would be to aggressively apply for more grant money. Another way to raise revenue would be to revamp the county’s licensing program.
All dogs and cats, 4 months and older, that live in Montgomery County must be licensed. There are about 400,000 pets in the county, according to the police.
For pets under 1 year, there’s no fee. After that, spayed or neutered pets cost $12 a year and unaltered pets cost $25 a year.
The compliance rate hovers at around 7 percent, said Bruce Meier, a county management and budget specialist, who called that number “woeful.”
Other comparable jurisdictions are in the 25 to 30 percent range, he said.
The county has been taking in about $400,000 annually in licensing fees for the past few years, Montgomery County Police Capt. Michael Wahl said.
“There really has been basically no real outreach done in that area over the past years,” Wahl said.
One way to make licensing easier would be to put the whole process online, which is happening across the country. Elrich discussed getting veterinarians involved in licensing animals, suggesting paying them for every pet license they help secure.
The new shelter will mean starting from scratch in many ways, Manger said. To help do that, he hired consultant Renee Harris of the San Diego Humane Society to help integrate “best practices” into the new facility.
Harris produced a report that Manger called a “great blueprint.” He said the county will continue to get feedback from her over the coming months.