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Humane Society defends its place in Meredith

February 10, 2010
MEREDITH — The town will engage in discussions with the New Hampshire Humane Society after a heated exchange and confusion about how the organization is classified.

Supporters of the New Hampshire Humane Society flocked to Monday's selectmen's meeting amid concerns regarding the town's funding of the organization.

Mary Di Maria, interim director of the New Hampshire Humane Society, said the society has been working with the town for the past 30 years. Di Maria said the society was told to go out to bid for service to the town, which was advertised as dog services for the Police Department.

Di Maria said the Humane Society provides services for all animals. One instance was a call to the house of a Meredith woman who passed away and left 12 cats and two dogs in her house. She said three staff members spent two days going through the house, and every animal was given full medical attention.

"If we go out to bid for home services of dogs for the Police Department, that will no way encompass what we do," Di Maria said.

Di Maria said many other dog services put animals in kennels and are not required to keep them alive after a certain period of time, whereas the Humane Society has a no-kill policy.

The New Hampshire Humane Society is a standalone 501(c)(3) organization that receives no federal or state funding. Most of its funding comes from donations and it receives 10 percent from municipal agreements.

"If we go this route you, the residents, will not have the opportunity to take care of these animals," Di Maria said. "You should be outraged that this is even being considered for our animals of this town."

Di Maria said such an action would be like having dogcatchers like in the 1950s.

Board Chair Peter Brothers said over the weekend he received 25 to 50 copies of an email that had been going around on the matter and he had received emails from people as far away as Vermont concerned about the town's route. Brothers said he asked Warren to review the matter and report on it.

Funding for the Humane Society is under the Police Department budget and $10,000 is proposed for 2010, a $500 increase from last year.

Warren said he asked all outside agencies requesting funding to fill out an outside agencies form and turn it into the town, as he had asked the Visiting Nurse's Association and other associations to do so.

Warren said he received a response back from the Humane Society that their services were viewed as a town service. Warren said around 15 emails were exchanged between him and the Humane Society with the Humane Society saying their funding came under vendors and services.

Warren said if such was the case, he followed the guideline that any vendors and services over $5,000 be put out to bid.

"As a vendor, they have to be treated just like any vendor," Warren said, the same being true if they were an outside agency. "The money's in the budget; it doesn't prevent the Humane Society from responding to the bid."

Warren said the Request for Proposal was modeled off those of Belmont, New Hampton, Gilmanton, and Tilton, communities that do not use the services of the New Hampshire Humane Society. Warren said he has not put out this type of proposal before.

In response to a resident's question, Warren said the RFP could include conditions such as all animals are accepted and are kept alive.

Di Maria said she requested a meeting with town officials, including Warren and Police Chief Kevin Morrow, and was told by Warren that a meeting would not be necessary and he was familiar with that the Humane Society does. Di Maria said she disagreed with statement given the advertisement she saw for kennel and dog services.

"I find that absolutely disgraceful after 30 years that's the way we're treated," Di Maria said.

Warren said that statement came after numerous emails.

"Your statement to me was 'Do you ask Bruce's Landscaping who they employ?'" Warren said. "I didn't need to waste anyone's time and meet with you." This statement was followed by jeers from meeting attendees. "You're telling me I'm not an intelligent enough person to read material?"

Residents also spoke in favor of the work of the Humane Society and concerns of what would happen to local animals if the town did not have access to it.

Melanie Hodge said that her dogs have gotten out of her house before and were taken to the Humane Society and microchipped. She expressed concern of what would happen if her dogs got loose and the a kennel service became involved

Selectman Colette Worsman asked why the Society would not fill out the same reports. Di Maria said this is the first year they had been asked to.

Worsman said the RFP should remain and town regulations should be followed in regard to vendors.

"It would behoove them to respond to the RFP with their own proposal," Worsman said.

Rep. Kate Miller of Meredith said the Humane Society has never been handled at the county level as a regional agency.

Selectmen said the matter should be discussed at an upcoming workshop so all parties can meet and try to come to an agreement.

"It appears to me that the work of the Humane Society may be a combination of vendor and outside agency," said Selectman Miller Lovett.

"It's an outside agency as we look at outside agencies, but it's also a vendor as we look at vendors," said Selectman Chuck Palm. Palm said the matter does need to be discussed in a workshop. "The money is there so do business as we always do."

Selectman Bob Flanders said the board is not required to take any of the proposals. In the meantime, Flanders said it would be best if the society fills out the outside agency paperwork.

"I think (the society) will be prepared to continue to service the Town of Meredith if you'd be prepared to engage in discussion with us," said Susannah Chance, president of the Board of Directors for the New Hampshire Humane Society.

Brothers said the town would request to maintain the status quo with the Humane Society and schedule a meeting with them to discuss matters.

Selectmen unanimously approved a motion to maintain services with the Humane Society and schedule a workshop to have dialogue with them.

Residents and selectmen said this further drew attention to the need for a formal vetting process for outside agencies as has been extensively discussed by the Board.

Members of the board did thank Warren for his efforts in reviewing the matter.

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