ARL is Open, Accountable and Committed

posted 6/24/2016

Earlier this month the Des Moines City Council voted unanimously to have the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) continue as its animal control provider – a role we have served for a little over 10 years. We are pleased to be continuing this partnership. One thing that came out of the process was the need to make people more aware of where they can find information about the ARL.

At the beginning of this year, an Impact Report was made public to share the intakes and outcomes of every animal that arrived either through the ARL’s contract with the city of Des Moines or through other locations.  (If you would like to review, simply visit ARL-Iowa.org, and you will find it posted in the About Us section.)  Even though this report is filled with metrics and statistical insights, animals are not just a number at the ARL, they are individuals.  We only euthanize an animal when it is determined to be too dangerous or suffering and only after we have exhausted every other humane and responsible option.  To do anything else would be irresponsible for the animals in our care, and also unsafe for the public. 

We knew sharing a report of animal intakes and outcomes would also open the ARL to criticism from some, who, regardless of what is shared, will never think we are doing enough.  And while there are times when criticism helps us do our jobs better and pushes us to find better solutions, there are also times when others are simply wrong. We are thankful to operate in communities where people are skeptical of unfounded criticisms and willing to take the time to learn the facts and thinking behind decisions.

In addition to the Impact Report, the ARL’s IRS Form 990 is also available to the public on our website. This form lists a variety of financials, including the required salaries of key employees over a certain threshold. The charity watchdog, Charity Navigator, has rated the ARL their highest 4-star rating, scoring the “Financial” information provided to the public as 97.12 and “Accountability & Transparency” as 96 (both out of a possible score of 100).  These are not only exceptionally high marks for an organization of our size and type, but we have already used the feedback from their last review to make changes that will further improve those scores next year.

The contract for animal control services that was passed by the Des Moines City Council on June 13 provides for a fee increase to move from 3 full-time Animal Control officers, to 5.5 by the end of 2019.  This simply puts the community back to the number of officers provided prior to the city’s budget cuts in 2012.  A city the size of Des Moines should have more than 5.5 officers, but until then, this increase will allow for expanded service hours and better serve the public’s increasing animal control needs.  The increase will also allow for the much-needed replacement of one animal control vehicle and an additional vehicle for the increase in officers.  No part of the increase goes into an ARL reserve. In fact, in 2015, the ARL’s Animal Control budget operated at a deficit to provide services at the level residents expect. Part of the increase in the renewed contract will simply allow us to lessen the gap between what is provided and what it costs. 

Outside of its contract, Des Moines has also received additional benefits, without taxpayer dollars. The ARL has secured over $420,000 in grant money since 2011, which has been used to provide free and low-cost spay/neuter, vaccinations, and other assistance for under-served families in Des Moines.  That’s yet another example of how partnerships between the ARL and city governments benefit taxpayers.

The ARL has also been a leader in strengthening animal welfare laws in the state and assisting local governments with their animal ordinances to better protect the public.  We train law enforcement agencies across the state on how to identify, investigate, and prepare a case to prosecute animal abusers, puppy millers, and hoarders.  We partner with human resource agencies to provide safe havens for animals when their owners need to access homeless or domestic violence shelters and are unable to take their pets, or when their owners are affected by other temporary crises, including flooding or house fires.  When pet owners don’t have enough pet food to get them through until their next paycheck, the ARL is there to help provide food so the animal doesn’t have to go without or be surrendered.  We bring therapy pets to nursing homes, hospitals, and other facilities to the people who need the comforting touch of an animal.  When other area shelters close their doors or put pets in need on a waiting list, they come to us for help.  We have entered into agreements with over 80 rescue organizations and shelters to transfer animals either to or from our facilities to best meet those animals’ needs.  I could go on and on about the work we do every day, which has begun to feel commonplace for those who have lived in the Des Moines metro for any length of time.

This work is done by nearly 100 staff and over 2,700 volunteers dedicated to the ARL’s mission of promoting animal welfare, preventing the overpopulation of pets, and strengthening the human-animal bond. 

We live in a growing, thriving community that is committed to providing a wonderful place to live – for all – including animals. In the very near future we will need to explore next steps to replace the Des Moines animal control building on SE 14th Street, as we continue our commitment to doing what’s right for the animals (and people) of central Iowa who find their way to the ARL. 

For Love of Animals,

Tom Colvin
Executive Director
Animal Rescue League of Iowa
tcolvin@arl-iowa.org