By Cory Ferguson, President of the Humane Society of the Black Hills Board of Directors

Over the past few days, in the Rapid City Journal, the Humane Society of the Black Hills’ (HSBH) budget has been mentioned and we need to clarify how funding is utilized in the management of animal populations in Rapid City.

In the Journal it was noted the HSBH city funding may decrease in the 2019 city budget. One of the most difficult decisions is making the hard choice to decrease a budget. While we certainly understand the challenges the city faces with its annual budget and respect the hard work they do, it’s important for the community to understand why the HSBH receives funding from the city and what exactly that funding is for.

The HSBH takes in more than 4,700 animals each year and is self-funding through adoption fees, reclaims fees, licensing fees, fund raisers, and a variety of other sources. The Humane Society staff cares for, feeds, and provides medical services for these animals 365 days a year, rain or shine, and on every holiday thanks to those funding sources.

Now here’s where the HSBH city funding goes:

The City of Rapid City contracts with the HSBH to provide a service – Animal Services and Enforcement (ASE) – which consists of three officers and one dispatcher. Their primary purpose is to protect the safety and welfare of the citizens and animals of this community. ASE answers up to 1,200 calls for service every year; ASE conducts regular patrols, cruelty investigations that may lead to search and seizures, conducts bite investigation and manages rabies quarantines and associated court and law enforcement documentation. In any given year, ASE will write hundreds of warning tickets and citations, answer nuisance calls, and generally be a key player in the management of the animal population in the City of Rapid City. They are required to be “on-call” for emergency situations on some nights, weekends, and holidays. As with any animal career, working hours can be irregular.

This service is what the City of Rapid City provides funding to the HSBH for. To be clear, the shelter will continue to serve the community and thousands of animals each year regardless of the city funding. What would suffer, however, are the services provided to Rapid City residents by ASE. Rapid City residents have come to expect ASE to answer the call when necessary and answer they do, no matter the circumstances.

We believe the City of Rapid City is getting a very valuable service for the contracted ASE services. We also believe the men and women serving as Rapid City Police Officers have higher priority calls to answer than roaming animals, animal bites, and barking complaints.

ASE is a valuable service in any community and is well worth the city’s investment to ensure roaming animals, zoonotic diseases, and incurable maladies like rabies don’t take hold and devalue our community’s way of life. They are key players in maintaining overall public human safety. At the end of the day, the money is very well spent to keep ASE officers working to successfully manage the city’s animal populations.

Caring for the lost, homeless, and forgotten is the mission of the HSBH and we will continue that mission for the next 50 years just as we have for the past 50. ASE hasn’t always been an element of that mission, but it has become integral to our community’s animal management. Rapid City residents expect ASE to answer the call when necessary, and they continue to do so in conjunction with the growing population and needs of Rapid City.