Dog control in Sussex County will remain within the purview of the Kent County SPCA for at least one more year. KCSPCA beat out rival Safe Haven in Georgetown, which won the Kent County Levy Court dog control contract, for the Sussex contract.

The Kent County SPCA/Delaware Animal Care & Control received a one-year, $669,230 contract extension for dog control services in Sussex County, which it has served for the last three years.

Kent County SPCA was the lowest of two bidders, Sussex County government spokesman Chip guy said in a press release. Safe Haven in Georgetown was the second bidder.

"The county cited Kent SCPA's low bid and satisfactory performance in the past for awarding this newest contract, which begins Jan. 1, 2013," Guy said Tuesday.

Kent County SPCA Executive Director Kevin Usilton was pleased with the contract extension, which would help sustain the Kent County SPCA with cash flow, he said.

However, the Kent County SPCA would have to cut back hourly service by four hours each day in order to make a contract with no cost of living increase work, Usilton said. Animal control would run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. instead of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., he said Wednesday.

The KCSPCA also would use attrition to make the contract work, Usilton said. Namely, one employee left, bring the total number of employees to 55.

"It's kind of a double edged sword," Usilton said. "We have funding that pays for officers, gasoline, vet care for the animals we bring in as part of that contract and other services, such as enforcement. But the adoption, spay/neuter, the cat intake that we do for Sussex County is covered by the SPCA.

"While it is cash flow, it doesn't pay for us to have anymore employees," he said. "We have to raise the funds to do that and we do that through return-to-owner fees, adoption fees and from donations."

Kent County SPCA laid off 13 employees when it lost the dog control contract to Safe Haven, a nonprofit, no-kill shelter, on July 1, the first day of Kent County's 2013 fiscal year. As of December, the KCSPCA was still paying toward unemployment for 10 of those employees.

However, Usilton still hopes that a more perfect solution can occur in the future. That includes shifting dog control back to the state, which put the burden of animal control on counties under the Minner administration. In those days, the SPCAs served as vendors for the state, Usilton said.

Former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner wanted the burden to fall on New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties, which were flush with cash from the so-called real estate transfers, Usilton said. That bubble burst and counties were left to find vendors through the bidding process.

That in turn led to the situation where the Delaware SPCA in Stanton and Georgetown provided dog control from the city of Wilmington and Sussex County while Kent County SPCA provided dog control for the rest of New Castle County and Sussex County.

The Kent County SPCA also held the contract for Kent County until it got involved in a contract dispute with Kent County Levy Court prior to the start of the 2013 fiscal year on July 1.

"Currently in Delaware, no organization that provides a government service of animal control resides in the jurisdiction they enforce in," Usilton said. "The Delaware SPCA is not located in the city of Wilmington. We provide for the rest of New Castle County and Sussex. And Kent County [service] is in Georgetown."

Kent County Levy Court commissioners balked at the nonprofit organization's request for an increased amount of money due to rising expenses without what they thought was an adequate enough explanation.

Be that as it may, Kent County SPCA/ Delaware Animal Care & Control Chief Animal Control Officer Major Brian Whipple said animal control agents would continue to do their jobs with aplomb.

"For us, it's something that we do and do well," Whipple said. "We do everything that we can to make sure the animals are treated the best way possible. Having the contract means a lot to us to continue the hard work we've put in the last few years.

"There was a time when we first took over doing it from the state in 2006 that there were packs of dogs running around in Sussex County," he said. "You don't see that anymore. There are still dogs that get out and dogs run. As long as the calls come in, we're going to go out and hopefully get them contained before something bad happens."

Kent County SPCA has seven animal control agents assigned to Sussex County while eight are assigned to New Castle County, Usilton said.

He said the Kent County SPCA still accepted local dogs turned in by owners, provided they paid the fee. But, it could no longer accept stray dogs, which fell under the purview of Safe Haven.