Shorter hours at animal shelter, fewer on-duty hours for officers.
A woman in tears this week dropped off a muzzled basset hound that she can no longer afford to keep. One family gave up its two feisty pit bulls to prepare for the arrival of a baby. Someone who found a stray Chihuahua in a barking frenzy turned the animal in.
These were among visitors Tuesday to Minneapolis Animal Care and Control at 212 17th Av. N., which last year took in about 3,700 stray, abandoned or unwanted animals. Now visitors will find the shelter closed more often as a result of a tight budget that has also limited the hours when animal control officers will be on duty.
A proposal to accept the changes was approved 4-1 Wednesday by the City Council's public safety panel, even though one council member predicted it would mean more attacks from dangerous animals.
The agency is expected to save at least $150,000 by leaving open two positions -- an animal abuse investigator and an animal control officer.
"We've gotten to the point where we just can't consistently guarantee service," said Dan Niziolek, manager of Animal Care and Control.
Under the plan, the animal shelter will close Mondays and open an hour later -- at 3 p.m. -- Tuesday through Friday. Animal control officers will respond to calls weekdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. On weekends, they will be on duty from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"I appreciate that this is difficult to take and it's a loss of service, but that's what happens when you cut budgets," Council Member Cam Gordon said.
The proposal prompted criticism last week from Council Member Gary Schiff during the council's regulatory committee meeting.
"I consider these [changes] rather drastic. ... Outcomes will be more severe injuries from dangerous animals and less prosecution of people who abuse animals," he said. "And I don't think those are any of the outcomes we want to see."
Last year, the department issued 877 citations and 318 animal permits. Concerns over dangerous dogs in the city intensified in 2007, when one dog killed a boy and another nearly mauled a woman to death. The city received 453 reports of animal bites that year, but that number fell to 411 last year.
Even with cutbacks in the hours that officers respond to calls, animal control officials will be on call for high-priority incidents in off-hours.
In the meantime, city officials said, they will continue to examine the possibility of consolidating animal control's dispatch services with the Emergency Management Center to save money.
Staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this report.