There are four years left on a five-year contract. Great Plains SPCA informed Jackson County that it would stop operating the Regional County Animal Shelter in July, citing financial concerns.

But the former county legislator, who is responsible for the Great Plains' construction and selection of the shelter, thinks the nonprofit could be convinced to stay if the county and Independence reinforce their contributions to the budget. of the shelter.

The county has "already received these notices," said Dennis Waits, who resigned from the legislature in December. "I see no reason why they can not pick up the phone and make it work."

Nobody knows if that will happen. Tam Singer, CEO of Great Plains, declined to say whether the board of his organization was in favor of renegotiating the county contract.

"I can not say anything until I get a response from Jackson County," she said. "When we hear from them, we can say more."

County officials and Independence City, the shelter's main client, did not have much to say on Thursday, but hoped they could let the six-year-old shelter run uninterrupted, regardless of its operator.

"The city will continue to work with Jackson County over the coming weeks and months to ensure a smooth transition for our residents," said Independence in an unsigned statement.

County spokeswoman Marshanna Hester said the county was blinded by the announcement made by Great Plains on Wednesday during three days of public hearings on the budget that will inform the plan's spending plans. the county legislature for 2019.

The Merriam-based animal welfare group sent an e-mail that afternoon in which it was written, "In order to preserve the future of our organization, Great Plains SPCA has informed Jackson County of its intention to end our operation and management of the Jackson County Animal Shelter. . "

The statement signed by Singer and chairman of the board, Chuck Laue, said Great Plains would also terminate public veterinary services at its Merriam veterinary clinic.

"Although these are tough decisions that affect our staff as well, as custodians of our donors' money, it is necessary for us to take these steps to improve our financial situation and allow us to continue to leverage our shelter in Merriam with our other community outreach programs. "

Great Plains did not explain the financial problems that motivated its decision nor the number of its employees who would be affected. A total of 116 people were employed at all three sites by the time Great Plains applied to manage the regional animal shelter in Independence until the end of 2022.

Under this contract, Great Plains warrants approximately $ 550,000 annually to house stray animals and homeowners' pets in the city of independence. The county writes the checks, but Independence provides the funds needed for these payments under a contract with the county.

County taxpayers also cover utility costs up to $ 130,000 a year.

Last year, the legislator also gave $ 230,000 to Great Plains to cover other operating costs of the facility, which supports stray animals caught in rural areas of the county. An additional $ 150,000 in taxes was allocated to an educational program and assistance to pet owners with limited means to care for their animals, as well as neutered cats.

On Thursday, Singer appeared before the legislature to request the continuation of these payments this year pro rata until July, rather than for the full year. The few minutes reserved for her argument were well on the schedule well before Great Plains' decision to withdraw from the agreement. As a result, the hearing schedule did not give him time to detail the reasons for his decision.

But in summary, she said, "It is not financially prudent for us to manage the shelter … We are very sad about this decision."

Great Plains was chosen to manage the $ 5 million facility when it opened in 2013 at 21001 E. Missouri 78.

Independence, which owns the six acres on which the shelter is located, objected to this choice because, originally, the city would manage it for the county. Municipal administrators have signed a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding establishing the parameters. One of the goals of the construction of the shelter was to replace the small decrepit municipal shelter that Independence was operating at the time.

With over 27,000 square feet, the regional animal shelter was the second largest behind the Wayside Waifs headquarters, south of Kansas City, with capacity for 125 cats and 100 dogs at a time. (The new planned animal shelter in Kansas City will be bigger.)

But Waits pleaded in favor of awarding the contract to Great Plains after worrying that Independence would not budget enough money to make it work as an "anti shelter" -destruction "that he was considering.

Great Plains, meanwhile, has always been fully committed to the principles of "no kill" shelter, which means that less than 10% of captured animals are euthanized.

This mode of operation may, however, result in higher costs, depending on the number of animals imported from the street or abandoned by their owners. For a time, the shelter was invaded by cats, which undermined the final result and created tension when some cats were turned away.

In negotiating the current contract, Great Plains complained of the financial hardship it had suffered due to Independence's ban on pit bulls. According to Great Plains, when other types of dogs were adopted or returned to their owners within 21 days of arrival at the shelter, the average was 198 days for pit bulls.

This limited the number of paid adoptions at a cost to Great Plains of $ 137,214 in 2017, the agency said.

With the ban still in effect, 15 to 20 percent of the dogs living there are in line with the city's broad definition, Singer said Singer.