King County Animal Care and Control would move its Kent shelter by Nov. 1 and cease to exist as an agency after June 30 next year under a proposal announced yesterday by Executive Kurt Triplett.
King County’s troubled animal-control service is going out of business.
County Executive Kurt Triplett on Thursday gave the suburbs nine months’ notice that the county intends to stop providing shelter care and animal control after June 30.
The county wants to hand over the job to a regional organization and has set aside $3 million to make that happen. Some county layoffs are expected, Triplett said.
The services could be split between two entities, with a nonprofit shelter available for pet adoptions and a public consortium of cities handling enforcement of animal-control laws and holding stray animals.
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“In an era where we are mothballing parks, eliminating human-services programs and closing health clinics, we can no longer afford to subsidize animal care and control,” Triplett said.
The proposal echoes recent calls for action from several Metropolitan King County Council members: Last year they called on former Executive Ron Sims to exit the animal-sheltering business.
Last week, they called on Triplett to address the agency’s deficiencies, including excessively long response times to dog attacks documented by The Seattle Times.
In its investigation, The Times found that people who called to complain about dog bites or vicious dogs routinely waited days, even weeks, for a response from Animal Care and Control, while injured animals received immediate response.
The agency decided to pull field officers into the shelter as part of an intense — some officials say misguided — effort to achieve a 2007 council mandate to improve animal care and reduce euthanasia rates.
If approved by the council, Triplett’s proposal would close the books on an agency started in 1972 to catch stray dogs. Today, the agency operates shelters in Kent and Bellevue for unwanted or stray animals and patrols unincorporated King County, as well as 32 cities. Seattle runs its own shelter and animal control.
In return for collecting pet-license fees and giving those to the county, the cities receive shelter and animal-control services. But those fees aren’t enough to cover all of Animal Care and Control’s $5.6 million budget: King County this year gave it a $1.5 million subsidy.
Officials yesterday didn’t dwell on the agency’s problems.
“King County Animal Care and Control is understaffed and overstretched,” Triplett said. “It has conflicting mandates that make success nearly impossible. It is time for a new model.”
Council members Reagan Dunn and Kathy Lambert stood with Triplett on Thursday and said they supported his proposal. “Frankly, the time for finger-pointing is over,” Dunn said.
Sgt. John Diel, president of the union that represents the agency’s 28 animal-control officers, was optimistic about the future of animal-control services but nonetheless concerned about layoffs.
“This is a good step forward,” he said. “We’re finally talking about a positive future for animal control.”
The clock is ticking on the agency’s main shelter in Kent, which takes in an average of 1,000 animals a month. There were about 400 animals in the shelter Thursday, two-thirds of which are cats.
Potential flooding from the Green River this fall could put the Kent shelter under up to six feet of water, Triplett said, which is why the county will seek a new temporary home for the facility by Nov. 1.
Starting sometime next month, the Kent shelter will stop taking animals, Triplett said. Animals in the shelter that are not adopted will be moved to rescue groups, the Humane Society and other shelters.
But after June 30, the cities will be on their own. Some may choose to operate a shelter for adoptable animals, while others could contract with the Humane Society.
Brenda Barnette, chief executive of the Seattle Humane Society, said yesterday that she has had “very preliminary discussions” with Triplett’s staff.
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or firstname.lastname@example.org