By Denise Dick
Citing financial problems, Mahoning County’s only humane agency no longer is providing help for neglected and abused animals.
Gary Pilcher, chairman of the board of the nonprofit agency, said Animal Charity will return to its original mission: providing low-cost veterinary services, including spaying and neutering, particularly for low-income people.
“We decided to go back to our core principles, our core business,” Pilcher said.
Joe Borosky, and Nikole Baringer, former humane agent and chief executive officer, respectively, said they learned after a board meeting Monday evening that they were out of jobs. The Vindicator contacted them Tuesday for comment. Two part-time animal care-takers also were let go.
That means there is no agency in the county to handle animal abuse and neglect calls, Borosky and Baringer said.
“I have 15 to 20 calls right now of animals potentially suffering or dying,” Borosky said.
With winter temperatures and some animals kept outside, this was the worst time of year for the board to make the decision, he added.
Pilcher said it was a difficult decision that the board spent many hours contemplating. “We couldn’t ignore the fact that we’re in a financial crisis,” he said.
The agency had a difficult time making its last payroll and making the next one will be tight as well.
Borosky said he offered to work in January for free and to take a $6,000 pay cut from his $23,500 annual salary.
“I can’t work for free forever, but I do have a second job,” Borosky said. “I was willing to sacrifice for the animals.”
He said that with animal food donated and the humane agent’s van paid for, the humane department’s overhead is low.
Pilcher said it’s more than just salary, though. The agency must pay for gas for the van as well as its maintenance and insurance costs, which tend to be high.
Borosky said he can’t be a humane agent without a humane society, and he’s hoping to work with another animal agency.
Pilcher hopes another agency steps up to provide that service as well. Animal Charity just can’t afford to do it anymore, he said.
He also hopes that either a donor contributes to help Animal Charity or that the agency can partner with other animal organizations to try to reduce expenses.
While Baringer acknowledges that the agency’s finances aren’t great, she says it’s not in the financial disarray that’s being portrayed.
“The 2011 budget looked a lot better than 2010,” she said.
Baringer, who served as CEO for about eight years, said the decision to end the humane services and only offer the veterinary clinic means Animal Charity is no different from any other vet office.
“The part that kept Animal Charity not-for-profit was the humane part,” she said. “The vet clinic was a bonus because we have a vet on staff.”
She worries about people who donate to the agency, thinking their money will go to help sick or mistreated animals.
Pilcher said employees will work to find homes for the animals now at Animal Charity’s Market Street building. But no more animals will be accepted.
“Nothing is cast in stone,” Pilcher said. “If we find ourselves in a better financial position eight months, a year, 18 months from now, things can always change. Right now, we’ve had to take some drastic measures.”
Last March, Animal Charity bought and moved into the Boardman building at 4140 Market St. after nearly 50 years in Youngstown.