Exeter town committee opposes approval of funding for SPCABy JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent
September 13. 2017 11:55PM
EXETER — Officials from the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are expressing disappointment after learning that a town human services committee opposed budgeting $1,400 in local tax dollars to help the nonprofit because it feels the organization doesn’t support “human needs.”
“People come to us every day looking to surrender animals, adopt animals, problem-solve animals in their care. We’re helping people and we’re helping animals. It goes both ways,” insisted Lisa Dennison, executive director of the Stratham-based SPCA.
The three-member committee came under fire recently when Selectman Anne Surman criticized its decision to recommend the town nix supplemental financial support for the SPCA in next year’s town budget.
The panel was established to review funding requests from various human services agencies and make recommendations to selectmen on how much money each should receive from the town.
Exeter is including $100,000 in its budget for human service agencies, but which ones get a piece of it is up for debate.
Committee member Christine Soutter defended their decision at a selectmen’s meeting Monday, saying that while the members personally support the SPCA, they had to “eliminate any agencies that do not serve Exeter residents’ basic human needs.”
“The decisions made by the committee were not haphazard,” she said, adding, “They were made with careful thought, research, and lively discussion.”
Soutter, who described herself as a dog lover and rescue dog owner, also pointed out that the town does provide some funding to the SPCA through the police department for animals that are surrendered.
According to Town Manager Russ Dean, the town pays the SPCA $750 a year for its services and an additional fee per animal based on the services used.
Surman first raised her concerns at a meeting on Aug. 21. She said the town has supported the SPCA for at least 20 years and felt that it was “odd” that it woud suddenly stop.
“I just think it was a poor decision on their part to not fund an organization that I know our police department works with on a regular basis. I know they do great work. I know they do a lot of fundraising, but still, that $1,400 is something we’ve given to them for many years and I’m just very disappointed that that group didn’t see that was a worthwhile organization,” she said.
Dennison said Exeter is one of many communities it relies on for additional funding because it doesn’t receive state or federal funds.
“I understand what they’re trying to do by directing critical resources to care for individuals, but this is also a manner of caring for individuals,” she said.
According to Dean, agencies like the S.P.C.A. that don’t end up on the list to receive funding can still propose a citizen-petitioned warrant article to present to voters in March requesting town funds.
Dean said Exeter has seen a $33,000 increase in requests for funding from social service agencies for next year.