Canyon County Animal Shelter lays off half its staff

The nonprofit says a downturn in donations forced the massive cuts.

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comAugust 7, 2013 

A dozen of the Canyon County Animal Shelter’s staff of 25 will lose their jobs Wednesday, executive director Barb Hutchinson said Tuesday night. Volunteers have said they will step up to help out.

“We could always use more volunteers,” Hutchinson said. “We just need to make sure that we stay viable.”

Two-thirds of the Canyon County Animal Shelter’s $900,000 operating budget comes from private donations and shelter fees.

Donations to the nonprofit have been down about 30 percent over the past several months. On top of that, grants that did not arrive when anticipated have caused concern about cash flow.

Hutchinson spoke to her staff Monday about possible layoffs. The group’s four-member board decided Tuesday afternoon that layoffs were necessary.

“The board members are on top if it, and the bills will continue to be paid and employees will continue to be paid,” the board said in a release Tuesday night. Some services may be eliminated, such as vaccinations and low-cost veterinary care.

“We just need to get back to basics,” Hutchinson said.

The shelter’s financial situation is not dire, she said. The board just wants to be sure the Caldwell-based animal shelter doesn’t get into a position where it can't meet payroll, as happened recently at the nonprofit Valley Crisis Center in Nampa.

Ten members of the crisis center’s staff walked out 10 days after they failed to receive their paychecks; they all filed wage claims with the state.

“That should be a wake-up call to all nonprofits,” Hutchinson said of the crisis center. “We need to be sure that doesn’t happen to us.”

The shelter receives money from three local municipalities: $65,000 from the City of Caldwell, $65,000 from the City of Nampa and $300,000 from Canyon County.

Hutchinson said the shelter has received some recent bequests through wills but it can take significant time for estates to be settled.

The shelter’s efforts to increase adoptions were rewarded with a second place win in the 2012 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge. The shelter found homes for 2,082 pets from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31, an increase of 1,347 animals over the same period in 2011.

The shelter won a total of $57,000 during the 2012 contest. The shelter is participating in the contest again this year and took first place in June in its division, winning $5,000.

Hutchinson took the helm of the shelter in the fall of 2011. Prior to that time, it was operated as a public shelter at an annual cost of $1.2 million, with a staff of about 16 to 18.

“Since taking over the shelter, we have saved taxpayers a significant amount of money each year, and while doing this, we have also saved 11,000 dogs and cats,” the board’s statement Tuesday says. “But we need donations from people and businesses to operate.”

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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