Like pretty much all of California, Sacramento County is drowning in red ink.
The county's budget deficit is hovering at around $181 million. Officials are laying off hundreds of government employees. And the region's biggest animal shelter, finished just last year at a cost of $23 million, may have to close its doors.
The Humane Society of the United States is not amused. It's also not offering any solutions.
Here's how HSUS California director Jennifer Fearing weighed in this morning in the Sacramento Bee:
The gleaming new shelter on Bradshaw Road opened to fanfare in October. It was publicly financed, and the county inherited a $1.6 million annual bond obligation on the building.
"They have to pay that debt," said Jennifer Fearing, California director for the Humane Society of the United States. "So when they make cuts, they are cutting staff and services.
"I don't believe that anyone who supported that much-needed shelter thought that the county would be making that trade-off."
Yesterday HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle issued an "alert," telling Californians on his mailing list to raise a ruckus with county officials. And on June 14 Fearing will hold a rally on the steps of the Sacramento County Administration Building before the day's planned budget hearings.
"Please wear a RED shirt," Fearing writes on Facebook, "to symbolize our desire to stop the bleeding."
How about a GREEN shirt instead? Y'know… to symbolize the $192 million in HSUS's bank account?
The Humane Society of the United States could easily pay off Sacramento County's $1.6 million bond obligation and ensure that the shelter stays open. To a group with a $100+ million budget, that amount of money is the equivalent of loose change between the sofa cushions.
And the best part is that paying off the county's pet-shelter debt would result in "the immediate relief of suffering," which HSUS's own by-laws say should be the main focus of its spending.
The more that HSUS dithers while dogs and cats die, the more its overall credibility will continue to suffer. And all it would take to turn things around is a few bucks.
How 'bout it Wayne? Care to put some money where your infomercial's mouth is? The dogs and cats in Sacramento's shelter don't care about HSUS's net worth. They'd just very much like to keep breathing.