First State Animal Center-SPCA faces uncertain future in Dover

Executive Director Kevin Usilton says that instead of animal control duties, First State Animal Center-SPCA in the future likely will concentrate efforts on adoptions, vaccinations and spay and neuter operations. (Delaware State News file/Dave Chambers)

Executive Director Kevin Usilton says that instead of animal control duties, First State Animal Center-SPCA in the future likely will concentrate efforts on adoptions, vaccinations and spay and neuter operations. (Delaware State News file/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — First State Animal Center-SPCA Executive Director Kevin Usilton said he’s unsure whether the nonprofit will continue to provide services to the city of Dover beyond this year, and internal discussions are ongoing.

According to Mr. Usilton, FSAC-SPCA board members are considering dropping enforcement duties, which would end arrest powers and allow for closed meetings no longer subject to Freedom of Information Act requiring open gatherings.

“The big issue for board members is having activists to stare, gawk, and make comments about our meetings,” Mr. Usilton said.

“There’s a thought to go back to a true nonprofit and not some form of quasi-government.”

Discussions have been ongoing since June, Mr. Usilton said, when the state legislature approved a plan to transition Delaware’s animal control services to state control upon the expiration of current contracts. FSAC-SPCA said the future plans hampered staff stability, and announced plans to terminate its contract with Kent County in 60 days. Coverage in New Castle and Sussex counties will be provided until the end of 2015.

Now, the FSAC-SPCA is scrutinizing its contract of less than $40,000 annually with Dover. Mr. Usilton said the contract has rolled over annually for each of the past eight years. There is no required date of termination notice, he said.

Dover PD calls

A Dover Police Department officer takes calls regarding strays and owner surrenders within city limits, along with handling animal cruelty complaints. The animals are transported to the FSAC-SPCA for shelter accommodations.

“We have a good relationship with the officer,” Mr. Usilton said. “He helps us and we help him.”

City of Dover spokesman Kay Sass indicated that the cooperation was mutual.

“From a city perspective we haven’t had any complaints,” she said. “Per the contract the officer takes strays to the SPCA.”

FSAC-SPCA has taken in 300 animals this year, Mr. Usilton said, “the majority of which are dogs and at times lots of cats and kittens and very few other animals.”

The facility holds strays for five days while attempting to locate an owner, checking for any information that might be available on the animal and posting its photo online, Mr. Usilton said. An assessment will determine whether to put the animals up for adoption.

Moving forward, FSAC-SPCA will concentrate efforts on adoptions, vaccinations and spay and neuter operations, he said.

Fortunately, Mr. Usilton said, adoptions have been made at a good pace the past two months. August was marked by special offerings that spurred 217 connections. The hope is that continued deals will keep the momentum going — the “Teacher’s Pet” special this month offers adult cats and pit bulls for $9.

“It seems to be very busy with adoptions and we’re happy about that,” Mr. Usilton said.

Currently, it costs $125 to adopt an adult dog, $50 for an adult cat. Puppies younger than 6 months go for $175, and kittens are $75. The fees help offset the costs to neuter, vaccinate and microchip animals prior to adoption.

“Price point seems to be a factor for our residents,” Mr. Usilton said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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