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Animal Advisory Panel to be Axed?

More changes may be afoot for the local animal welfare services scene. After city and county funding cuts led to the jettisoning of the Lane County Animal Services (LCAS) program in favor of Greenhill Humane Society running the shelter and splitting up the welfare officers by city and county in July of this year, questions abound as to whether or not the LCAS Advisory Committee may be next on the chopping block. 

The board-appointed LCAS Advisory Committee of citizen experts was created in 2008 as a part of the Save Adoptable and Treatable Animals mandate passed by the Lane County Board of Commissioners, which required transparency for all LCAS activities. But according to committee appointee Molly Sargent, the board is letting the committee wither, with just four of its seats currently filled. 

“The LCAS Advisory Committee is a voice for this community to speak up for their homeless animals. Disbanding this committee would show just how little Lane County commissioners care about their animal shelter and the homeless animals it cares for,” Sargent says. “It is as if the county wants the LCAS advisory committee to die a slow death by attrition.” 

After the vote that ultimately resulted in contracting with Greenhill for the shelter work, including euthanasia, formerly performed by LCAS, County Commissioner Rob Handy made a motion to retain commissioner oversight of the contract with Greenhill and to keep the advisory committee engaged. That motion went down 3-2 just like the original vote to defund LCAS, with Commissioners Jay Bozievich, Sid Leiken and Faye Stewart creating the necessary majority for the decisions. Handy says that the board will likely vote whether or not to disband the committee before the end of the year. 

“We still have a need for citizen oversight and a role for the animal welfare advocates who care so much about this program; all those things are not happening right now,” says Handy of the current situation. But Cary Lieberman, Greenhill director and former co-chair of the LCAS Advisory Committee, says that Greenhill already has a board of directors made up of community volunteers and experts as well as committees with citizen volunteers providing advice and oversight to its activities. 

As for the advisory committee, Lieberman says, “I could see it evolving; I don’t see the benefit of keeping it in the form that it was … where people want to keep the [advisory] committee, it’s really a duplication of what we already have. Between the animal care committee, between the board, between the marketing committee, this would be adding a public committee to oversee a non-profit’s activities … so I don’t necessarily see the continuation of the committee in that form.” 

Lieberman adds that the developments of late have been a natural progression as LCAS transitioned over the years from an animal control role, to a more shelter-focused one, creating the appropriate context for Greenhill to take over, he says. “This is a normal evolution … overall, this is the direction we’re seeing around the country, and I think it’s a positive change for this community.” 

But local animal advocates remain concerned that the loss of the committee means the loss of citizen input into the area’s efforts to go no-kill and how the county and city handle difficult-to-place animals, euthanasia, treatment of older and ill animals and other animal welfare issues.