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Big Salaries or Small Animals?

Animal advocates want to know why Lane County isn’t considering trimming salaries over $90,000 instead of cutting much-needed services. Budget cuts at the city of Eugene and at Lane County have led to a proposal that Lane County Animal Services be ended and a new plan put in its place. But no new plan has been drafted, and who and what would take over dealing with the area’s homeless pets from LCAS is unclear. 

Lane County Commissioner Rob Handy proposed on February 8 that Lane County cut 15 percent off the salary of those making more than $90,000 a year. He says this would save Lane County more than one million dollars. Commissioners Jay Bozievich, Sid Leiken and Faye Stewart voted against discussing the proposal.

“They don’t even want to entertain the notion,” says Lisa Warnes of Save the Pets. She says the proposal to cut LCAS is a way to get around paying union wages, and she says that it’s “morally wrong to go after union wages and cut much needed services,” when there are “fat cats” making six-figure salaries.

Warnes says the city ought to take up Handy’s salary-trimming proposal as well. 

Lane County Administrator Liane Richardson makes almost $150,000. Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz and Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns each make over $100,000. 

LCAS, which has greatly reduced Eugene and Lane County’s euthanasia rates “is the best thing right now,” she says. Warnes says she fears without LCAS there will be not only be more feral cats but also feral dogs, “more dog bites and more cops shooting dogs.”

Cuts at LCAS are already a problem, she says. The animal behaviorist was recently fired. If it hadn’t been for the willingness of LCAS to give a young behaviorally challenged dog named “Axel” a chance, and the work of the behaviorist, Warnes would not have adopted “the best dog I have ever had,” she says.

While the city and county as of yet have no plan, they have discussed using a nonprofit group to take over the animal shelter, and moving enforcement to the police department. 

Cary Lieberman of Greenhill Humane Society says that until the cities and county issue a request for proposals, it’s too early to know how Greenhill may be involved.  Lieberman says, “Our interest is to ensure that homeless, sheltered pets get the best care possible, and all pets are safe from abuse and neglect. We would want to know that those goals are in line with what the cities and county want before we consider any agreements.”