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City moves away from outsourcing animal services

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – Non-profit animal rescue groups in the city of St. Louis would play a much larger role in the care of stray animals under a new strategy from the Department of Health.

After Mayor Francis Slay in March ordered the closure of the outdated facility on Gasconade, the city opened bids for a traditional privatization arrangement, where it would use city money to pay a non-profit to house the animals. But officials received just one bid, from Stray Rescue and Animal House Fund. An area veterinarian also applied, but submitted the documents late.

The city retains its regulatory role under the new strategy, which was unveiled Wednesday. But local rescue agencies like the Fund and Stray Rescue would feed and care for the animals at their own expense.

The city already partners with 35 different agencies to shelter animals, said interim health director Pamela Walker. That saves the city more than $1 million a year.

"So it's just an extension of the system we already have in place but with a focus of building capacity somewhere besides Gasconade," she said. The lack of a contract is also beneficial.

"It allows for more creative solutions," she said. "You can respond quicker when you're not part of government, you can raise more money when you're not part of government."

Neither Stray Rescue nor the Animal House Fund returned phone calls seeking comment. The Fund was originally established to raise donations for a new city animal shelter. Officials with the fund are looking to use the money to acquire and rehab a building. Stray Rescue is in the process of building a new facility on Pine Street, but has also struggled with fundraising.

Walker said the city will leave the Gasconade facility open until the new model is proven.


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