Photo: Kennel technician Leo Boeck holds Marty, a kitten who is up for adoption from the Great Falls Animal Shelter at the shelter’s temporary location in the Mercantile Building at Montana ExpoPark. TRIBUNE PHOTO/RYAN HALL
Great Falls city officials have broken off talks with a Florida group, the American Pet Association, which submitted a proposal to run the Great Falls Animal Shelter.
City Manager Greg Doyon said Thursday that the group declined to visit Great Falls to see the shelter and meet city officials before a contract was reached.
“They’re not willing to do that,” Doyon said. “They were really sensitive about giving out references.”
Doyon said he thought it was reasonable to ask the Florida group for references or that it send someone to Great Falls to see the shelter and meet with city officials. Marcie Sapp, Humane Services director for the American Pet Association, previously gave a presentation to city officials via video conferencing.
Doyon said association officials wanted to be frugal in declining the trip request.
“Although I understood their position, it’s not enough,” Doyon said. He said the group’s proposals needed to be “properly vetted.”
Sapp wrote an email to the city Tuesday describing her qualifications and those of her organization.
“I hope that this information meets your needs and satisfies your concerns, and if not, we certainly understand and will look for another community to provide our assistance,” Sapp wrote.
That’s apparently what will happen, as the American Pet Association proposal falls by the wayside.
Doyon told Sapp in an email that he believed the association’s approach “would work well for the community. But if we can’t learn more about (the) organization behind the model, it makes it impossible to get the APA off on the right foot in Great Falls.”
Sapp could not be reached late Thursday afternoon in Florida.
The Great Falls Police Department currently runs the city animal shelter.
One other group, the independent Great Falls-based Animal Welfare Reform Cooperative, or ARC, also submitted a proposal to run the shelter. Doyon said the city does not plan to initiate talks with the local group at this point.
Instead, Doyon suggested that the city regroup and set up meetings with several animal welfare groups in the city to try to come up with a new model for running the shelter.
One of the groups, the Animal Foundation of Great Falls, is building a new shelter and adoption center near the current city shelter in Riverview.
Doyon said that this would be a good time for local groups to join forces and come up with the best plan for running shelters for animals in the city. Those groups include the Animal Foundation, the Humane Society of Cascade County and ARC, he said.
“I think that would be really beneficial for everybody,” Doyon said. He pointed out that the Animal Foundation’s shelter will need to craft “some sort of arrangement” with the city’s older shelter once both buildings are operating.
“They (the foundation) have the ability to complement what the city has to do,” Doyon added. “It’s time that we collectively come together.”
Animal welfare groups reacted positively but cautiously.
“I think the city made a wise decision,” said Linda Metzger, a leader of ARC. “All local animal welfare advocates have common ground where it counts. With community support, we can work cooperatively to make Great Falls one of the safest places for pets in the nation.”
“Certainly, the Animal Foundation wants to be in the mix with what goes on,” said John Huber, a member and past chairman of the foundation board. “We’re certainly willing to come to the meeting.”
Huber added that the foundation would have preferred that the city partnered with it to build the new facility. City commissioners cited high costs and lack of money in opting out last year, leaving the city or a private group to run the current shelter.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Jim Donahue, president of the Humane Society board, of having the local groups meet. “It would be nice to get people talking.”