VINELAND — The Cumberland County SPCA’s shelter operations will continue past the end of this month.
In October, Bev Greco, executive director of the Cumberland County SPCA and Southern Jersey Regional Animal Shelter, said the shelter operations would stop at the end of the year without financial assistance from the areas they serve, Cumberland and Salem counties and most of their municipalities.
The SPCA and its shelter operations functioned on a $1.3 million budget this year, but its budget will have to increase to make it through all of next year, Greco said.
The shelter houses about 4,500 animals in a year, with cats outnumbering dogs at a 3-1 ratio.
How much of a budget increase is necessary is in the hands of the accountants, Greco said.
“Those ($1.3 million) have been our expenses, but our expenses have increased significantly in the past two years, so we will definitely need more,” Greco said.
The 18 municipalities in Cumberland (11) and Salem (7) counties that make use of the Cumberland County SPCA cover less than half the organization’s expenses, Greco said.
“The rest, we rely on donations and grants and that sort of thing,” Greco said.
After the announcement shelter operations would need to end, the municipalities and counties asked whether the SPCA could hang in there for a couple of months to continue to explore options, Greco said.
“I don’t know yet, that’s in the hands of the accountants and the attorneys who are working on that now, whether we will be able to offer a contract for a full year or whether it might be a six-month type thing,” Greco said. “We have some challenges.”
Joseph Derella, director of the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders, said the county brought the leadership of all 14 municipalities that use the SPCA together for two meetings, which has led to some cooperation to work to maintain shelter operations.
The initial 2018 contracts may be only three to six months long to allow everyone involved to come up with a permanent solution, Derella said.
“We’re optimistic. There have been some ideas that have been put on the table, and everyone is reviewing them currently and continues to work hard to make sure the services provided by the SPCA will continue,” Derella said.
Greco said there are very complex issues with changes in regulations that the SPCA and its shelter operations have to keep up with.
“The bottom line is if you look at the surrounding counties and the budgets for their county-run facilities, it will still be much more cost effective for our municipalities to go with a not-for-profit, private shelter as opposed to having to run a municipal or county facility,” Greco said.
It would be a matter of days until the new fee schedule and contracts are given to the municipalities and the counties, Greco said on Tuesday.
Municipalities that drop off animals to the shelter only pay for the first seven days, but animals stay in the shelter on average 28 to 34 days, Greco said.
Some animals come in, and they are out in a week to 10 days, while others are there longer because of immaturity or health issues.
“That is greatly affected by the fact that we are able now to transfer a lot of animals out to rescues and our shelter partners. We never had that opportunity until about four or five years ago,” Greco said. “We are trying to do everything we can to get them adopted.”
In the past three years, the shelter’s euthanasia rate is down 59 percent, and its transfer rate is up 174 percent, Greco said.