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Putting Stock in Bonds

Bond Referendum Helps Animal Control Agency Raise Funds for Building Renovations

Bond Referendum Helps Animal Control Agency Raise Funds for Building Renovations

When it comes to fundraising, public animal control agencies often face a host of obstacles unknown to private humane societies, including the public's unwillingness to donate money to government and stiff competition for limited tax dollars. But by cooperating with local leaders and launching an intense public relations effort, one agency in Virginia managed to persuade its entire community to vote "Yes" for animals this past November. Like a handful of communities around the country, the citizens of Loudoun County supported the sale of bonds to raise funds for much needed renovations to the shelter facility.

Governments have been selling bonds to fund schools, police agencies, and road construction projects for years. By passing a referendum on an issue, voters give the government permission to sell bonds to citizens to, in effect, borrow money for a specific purpose, then pay it back with interest in a few years. "It's just like getting a mortgage on a house," says Loudoun County Animal Control (LCAC) Director Robert Montgomery, whose facility was state-of-the-art when erected in 1964 but now falls far short of the community's needs.

One of the fastest growing counties on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Loudoun County is struggling to relieve the strain that population growth puts on area schools, garbage disposal services, and of course, animal control. "People are moving here so fast that we can't provide the services or build the infrastructure to keep up with them," says Montgomery. "We're competing against public schools, police, and other agencies for dollars, and unfortunately animal control agencies tend to be at the end of the food chain."

But rather than settle for table scraps, LCAC asked the county board of supervisors for permission to take their case directly to the public. As soon as the issue was placed on the ballot, shelter supporters waged a convincing campaign to ensure the vote was successful: A strong corps of shelter volunteers with marketing experience targeted districts that had shown support for similar initiatives, writing letters to the editor, producing advertisements, and persuading community newspapers to print articles about the shelter. One reporter chronicled the paths of three shelter dogs—two who were adopted and one who was euthanized—and the gripping stories increased public interest. A week before the scheduled vote, the shelter even took advantage of The HSUS's National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week, inviting members of the press to highlight shelter services and appealing to the public for continued support. The bond measure was supported by 70 percent of the voters, many of whom turned out solely to support the animals.

How could another animal control agency duplicate these efforts? "There are a couple of steps," says Montgomery. "First off, do a study to determine how big a shelter is needed, then a programmatic assessment to determine what functions the shelter [will serve]." Montgomery also recommends contacting The HSUS, American Humane Association, International City/County Management Association or National Animal Control Association to assess your needs and the cost involved. After that, an agency need only work with an architect to create some plans and crunch the numbers before appealing to the voters for support. If your agency can then harness the skills of volunteers and earn the support of the community, you may be able to modernize your facility, just like Loudoun County Animal Control, where renovations to the current facility are set to begin in September.

 

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