King County Executive Dow Constantine's plan to revamp animal services under an agreement with 27 cities won the support of the County Council's Budget and Fiscal Management Committee Tuesday.
King County Executive Dow Constantine’s plan to revamp animal services under an agreement with 27 cities won the support of a County Council budget committee Tuesday.
The full council is to vote Monday on the tentative agreement that would cut back on field patrols, beef up the veterinary staff at the Kent shelter, close the smaller Bellevue shelter and restructure licensing fees and penalties.
The agreement represents a significant shift from earlier plans by Constantine and the County Council to turn the sheltering business over to a nonprofit organization. Constantine staffers said they found out there wasn’t enough other shelter capacity in the county for that to happen.
“All of us would like to get out of the animal-sheltering business as much as we possibly can, but we can’t do that right now, mainly because there’s no place for our animals to go,” said Julia Patterson, chairwoman of the County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee, on Tuesday.
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“This is a reasonable proposal that ratchets down our involvement over time, that gives us an opportunity to create stability in the system and find a way to provide shelters for animals.”
But Seattle Humane Society CEO Brenda Barnette said Tuesday it was “not true” there was nowhere else to put animals that go to the county’s Kent shelter.
Barnette said she told former County Executive Kurt Triplett last fall that Seattle Humane could remodel its shelter and take all the county’s cats and dogs for “a little over $400” per animal.
Under Constantine’s new regional plan, the county will spend about $450 per animal, Constantine’s strategic initiatives director, Carrie Cihak, said Monday. She said closing the county shelter and sending animals to the Humane Society was “not an option” because of its smaller shelter size.
At a public hearing Monday, representatives of several cities praised the county’s new 2 ½-year contracts with cities while animal-welfare advocates debated whether it was a good or a bad plan.
“I am here to announce that the city of Kent is a yes for this proposed regional animal-care and control model,” Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke told the council. Although it will cost Kent more money, she said, the city would work with the county to find “more ideal solutions in the long term.”
Several critics of the county’s animal-control operations said the plan falls short by keeping the county in the sheltering business and failing to turn animal-cruelty investigations over to more qualified law-enforcement officers.
Two of them, Claire Davis and Kim Sgro, sent the council a 36-page paper and a letter that called the plan “a mistake, pure and simple. It is little more than the status quo under a different name, and with a revised funding model.”
Cihak said the county and cities will look for ways to improve animal services, including partnerships with nonprofit groups. “In the meantime, we have gone about the business of caring for animals that are our responsibility. We take that very seriously,” she said.
Regional Animal Services Manager Ken Nakatsu said his office has received an outside investigator’s report on the county’s handling of an animal-cruelty case in which 21 starving farm animals were found dead or had to be euthanized in Enumclaw in November.
When neighbors called animal-control officers back to the property in January, six more animals were found dead.
Nakatsu said he couldn’t discuss the findings pending a final decision on possible internal disciplinary action.
The property owner has pleaded guilty to animal-cruelty charges.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or email@example.com