Animal accord for Bloomington, Monroe County, Ellettsville, gets routine OK from city council

Asher, the nattily dressed bully breed mix featured to the right of the bar chart, is a “courtesy listing” on the city of Bloomington’s animal shelter website. As of Dec. 26, 2022, the image links directly to his listing.

Even if  Bloomington and Monroe county government officials have recently been fighting like cats and dogs about topics like the convention center expansion, they have for several years settled into a pattern of uncontroversial cooperation for the sheltering of homeless animals.

At its last meeting of the year, on Dec. 21, Bloomington’s city council approved its side of an interlocal agreement with Monroe County government, and the town of Ellettsville, to help pay for operations at the city’s animal shelter.

The amount specified in the agreement that gets approved by the three governmental entities in any given year is based on the stats from the previous year—for the average cost per animal and the number of animals originating from each jurisdiction.

Last Wednesday, Bloomington’s director of animal care and control, Virgil Sauder, told the city council the average cost per animal for 2021 was $283.

For the 92 animals the shelter took in from Ellettsville in 2021, that works out to $26,036. For the 1,249 animals the shelter took in from non-Bloomington and non-Ellettsville locations in Monroe County, that works out to $353,467.

Monroe County commissioners had approved the county government’s side of the agreement in late September.

At Wednesday’s meeting, city councilmember Dave Rollo asked Sauder about animals that arrive at the shelter with an origin outside Monroe County—not in Bloomington, not in Ellettsville, and not in other parts of Monroe County. Rollo wondered if the $20 fee that was charged for those animals might prevent people from dropping off an animal for which they could no longer provide care.

Sauder told Rollo about 16.5 percent of all the animals taken in at the shelter in 2021 were from out-of-county sources. That’s 522 animals that came from counties other than Monroe, out of a total of 3,145.

Sauder said if someone can’t afford the fee, the shelter does not turn away “animals in need.” One option that the shelter makes available to people, to help them find another home for their animal, is to allow them to list the animal on its adopt-an-animal website listing. The shelter calls such listings “courtesy listings.”

The number out-of-county animals arriving at the shelter grew by about 50 percent in 2021 compared to 2020—in raw numbers from 350 to 522. Ellettsville animals arriving at the shelter increased by about 40 percent—in raw numbers from 66 to 92. The numbers of animals originating inside Bloomington and other places inside Monroe County were pretty much stable in 2021, compared to 2020.

The animal shelter also recruits people to foster animals in their homes, to conserve space at the shelter. Based on the animal shelter’s annual statistics, the number of fostered animals has increased from an average of 660 per year for the five-year period from 2012 to 2016, to just under 1,000 for the most recent five-year period, from 2017 to 2021.

Comparing the same two five-year periods, the average number of euthanized animals per year at Bloomington’s animal has decreased from 661 to 202. As a percentage of all animals taken in at the shelter, that’s a drop from about 17 down to 6 percent.