The animal-control chief said problems outlined in a damning report about the county facility were not true.
Sick cats in the county animal shelter in Kent went without food and water for two days last month, a consultant told the Metropolitan King County Council on Monday.
In a report that council members called “shocking” and “damning,” Nathan Winograd, director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, said most of the cats in the infirmary were held in filthy cages with empty food and water bowls during the first two days of his visit to the shelter in February. He showed photographs and video of the cages to council members.
County Animal Care and Control Manager Al Dams denied Winograd’s claims late Monday. After reviewing records and interviewing animal-control officers, he said, “The evidence that I have is that’s not true. … “
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Dams said he talked to three of the four officers who cared for the cats on the days Winograd talked about, as well as on the previous day. “They did provide me statements that they did feed the animals and give them water,” Dams said.
Winograd, hired by the County Council to study whether the county has the ability to operate “a model, no-kill program,” questioned whether current management could fix problems it has failed to address despite staff complaints for a decade.
The council will decide sometime after an April 14 town-hall meeting in Burien whether the county should continue to operate shelters.
Last year, 11,801 animals entered the county’s two shelters in Bellevue and Kent.
After Councilmember Bob Ferguson heard Winograd’s report, he fumed. “My patience is at an end. Either the executive branch gets its act together in the next month or I’m prepared to work with my colleagues on taking dramatic, draconian action.”
The Humane Society for Seattle/King County issued a statement Monday reminding people it is a private group and not part of the county shelter system. Chuck Stempler, board chair for the Humane Society, said, “We stand ready to help … “
On Winograd’s first, unannounced visit to the Kent shelter in January, he said he saw cats “cowering in the backs of the cages” because they were housed in the same room as dogs. The cages, he said, were moved to other rooms “on the eve of my arrival” for the scheduled February visit. He also visited the Bellevue shelter.
Jim Lopez, deputy chief of staff to County Executive Ron Sims, told the council he wasn’t prepared to respond before reading Winograd’s full written report, which has not been finalized and released.
“The executive remains committed to working closely with the council in making improvements to our Animal Care and Control services,” Lopez said. “We certainly listened very closely today, and we take these issues very seriously.”
Winograd was hired by the County Council after a citizens advisory committee last September called conditions at the Kent and Bellevue shelters “deplorable” and made 47 recommendations for the shelters and other animal programs.
Kim Sgro, a member of the advisory committee, told council members she and four other members had suspended their participation largely because officials weren’t responding to their information requests.
Dams said he has provided information to the committee as it has become available. Dams last week said the euthanasia rate — a prime concern of the County Council — fell to an all-time low of 18 percent in January and February.
Winograd also reported:
• Logs in the cat infirmary and other areas wrongly indicated that cages had been cleaned and animals had been given food and water.
• Some cats have been cleared for adoption but haven’t been moved into a room where people interested in adopting can find them. One-third of the cages in the cat-adoption room were empty.
• Not all animals coming into the shelter are being vaccinated against diseases common in kennels.
• Disease rates are high, and deaths in kennels “have skyrocketed.”
• Two dogs impounded last August as part of an animal-cruelty investigation are still being held as evidence — “even though there’s no case pending.”
• Five managers, most without shelter backgrounds, have run animal programs in the last seven years. The previous manager, Walt Washington, was sometimes pulled off the job to help with election operations.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or email@example.com