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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Without a $75,000 government contract with the St. Croix Animal Shelter, animal control on the Big Island has been virtually nonexistent during the last year.
The St. Croix Animal Shelter, under contract with the Department of Agriculture, has been charged with enforcement of animal control laws on the island since the early 1970s, said Mary Edwards, director of the shelter. But with the territory’s economic woes, funding wasn’t made available for fiscal year 2000, which started on Oct. 1, 1999, and ends Sept. 30.
The lack of money means there have been no animal cruelty investigations and no enforcement of dangerous dog laws.
"There is no other organization on St. Croix that can or will do what we do," said Edwards.
While funding has dried up, the steady flow of animals to the shelter has not. The contracted services the shelter rendered made up 80 percent of its work.
Between 350 to 400 dogs and cats are brought to the shelter each month, Edwards said. That means the managers of the nonprofit facility must generate funding through a variety of ways to keep crucial programs like spaying and neutering going.
"It’s been a big hit," Edwards said. "We had to fund-raise, ask for donations and write grants."
Still, the lack of a government contract means enforcement of animal laws has been mostly ignored for almost a year. Without an agreement, it becomes the government’s responsibility to enforce animal control.
Edwards said that former agriculture commissioners have estimated that it would cost in the neighborhood of $250,000 a year for the department to take on the services the shelter provided under the contract.
"When we had a contract we enforced the laws," Edwards said. "I don’t want to say we’ll take anything, but we wouldn’t turn down $40,000 or $50,000, but even at $75,000 they’re getting a bargain."
Agriculture Commissioner Henry Schuster couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, but the department’s proposed FY 2001 budget of $2.9 million doesn’t have a line item for a contract with the St. Croix Animal Shelter. However, one of the department’s mandates is to "administer and enforce laws regulating strayed or illegally tethered animals."
It was an untethered bull that a vehicle on St. Thomas recently hit, killing the driver. Motorists throughout the territory often complain of hits or near misses with stray livestock.
"I have no idea what the answer is. If you believe in something you always find money for it," Edwards said, adding that concerned residents should complain to the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor.

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