By a unanimous vote, Pima County took $1.6 million from the general fund - taxpayer money - to make up for a deficit in the Pima Animal Care Center.
"I was surprised by how much it was," says District Five Supervisor Richard Elias.
The animal care shelter runs at a deficit but money from Health Services has always been used to cover the debt.
Health Services also provides care for children, like childhood immunizations and wellness programs.
"We need to make sure human health care does not come at the expense of animal care," Elias says.
After paying the deficit today, the county will separate the Animal Care budget from Health Services.
The county is looking for ways to make Animal Care a stand-alone agency, able to pay its own way.
It has appointed a 30-member commission which is looking for ways to make the system more efficient, especially cost efficient.
It may be the other jurisdictions that contract with the county for animal care will have to pay more.
That would be Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana, Sahuarita and Ajo.
"We will probably look at them to pay their fair share," Elias says. "And it will likely be broken down proportionally, maybe by population."
Another possibility may be to raise adoption and licensing fees.
"But you run the risk of non-compliance," he says.
"It's OK they raise them a bit, but not too much," says Marita Beeman, who is looking for a dog for her mother. "All my dogs have been adopted at the Human Society or Animal Control."
She says everybody is "hurting in this economy."
It's also possible the county will decide a deficit is "just a cost of doing business."
In order to protect the public health and safety, the taxpayers will just have to pay to make up for the deficit.
The county is hoping a solution is found before the next budget cycle begins.
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