Manassas and Manassas Park have a temporary solution to their sudden lack of animal shelters: Pay Prince William County to provide services for a year.
As a result, the 1,500 or so animals taken from the cities' streets each year could be sent to the county shelter, about nine miles southeast of Manassas in Independent Hill.
The Manassas City Council voted unanimously last week to approve a year-long contract with the county. Under the agreement, Manassas will pay the county $3,980 a month.
Manassas Park City Council members will consider a similar year-long agreement with the county Tuesday night, for $1,800 monthly.
"We're anxious to resolve this issue and to find a long-term location for stray animals in the city," said Manassas Park City Manager David W. Reynal.
Manassas Council member J. Steven Randolph (I) said he would rather avoid having to build a shelter for the city.
"We all appreciate [the county] helping for the interim," Randolph said. "We don't care to get fully invested in an animal shelter business. We'd rather contract with a private entity."
In May, Morganna Animal Clinic decided to cut ties with Manassas and Manassas Park after operating both cities' animal shelters for 23 years. Morganna, which also operates a veterinary clinic and a boarding facility at its Liberia Avenue site, told the cities that it would need the extra space to accommodate its own growth.
Manassas City Manager Lawrence D. Hughes said that after some research by him and other city officials, the City Council rejected the idea of constructing a new animal shelter.
Hughes worked out the current arrangement, which he described as temporary. He said that the city hopes to find a permanent, private shelter for the animals within a year.
Hughes said the city is paying no more to the county than it was under the old contract with Morganna. The same goes for Manassas Park, Reynal said.
The county shelter processes 7,800 to 8,400 animals a year and houses an average of 60 to 100 per day, said Brian Oliver, its executive secretary. Adding Manassas and Manassas Park would mean an additional 1,500 or so animals per year at the shelter.
The arrangement means Manassas and Manassas Park residents can expect added delays in the time it will take for animal control officers to respond to calls, officials said.
"I beg the patience of the citizens of the City of Manassas when spring comes around," Strawderman said. "When things start to pick up, it may take an hour [to get to a site], so the calls will back up more."
Joan Strawderman, Manassas's chief animal control officer, said that on Wednesday animal control officers from both cities moved 10 dogs and three cats to the county shelter.
Oliver said that he doesn't expect the increase to strain his facility, at least for now.
"In the winter we tend to see a lower population of animals," Oliver said. "At this time, we're not seeing too much of an impact in numbers."