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County Council sets January 31 deadline to close King County animal shelters

Summary

Motion also calls for end to provision of animal control services to cities unless new contracts are struck for full cost recovery by the County

Story

The Metropolitan King County Council today adopted legislation directing the County Executive to end the provision of animal sheltering services by January 31, 2010, and to end the provision of animal control services to the cities by June 30, 2010, unless new agreements are made that allow the County to recover the full costs of field services.

For some time, revenues from pet licenses and other fees have fallen short of the cost of providing animal care and control services in the amount of approximately $2 million per year.

“For three years we’ve heard from consultants, audits, and work groups, unanimously advising us that we have serious problems in our animal sheltering program,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson. “It’s time to make a decision – get out of the animal sheltering business and turn to community organizations to provide more humane, efficient care.”

“Despite the efforts of dedicated employees and volunteers to improve the County’s animal shelter and control operation, the County can no longer afford subsidizing the almost $2 million general fund dollars for these services,” said Council Vice Chair Bob Ferguson. “Moving towards a community-based model of animal services is both fiscally responsible and in the best interests of the animals.”

“We need to do what is in the best interest of these animals,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “This time frame will allow a smooth transfer of the services these animals deserve.”

The motion calls for an end to operation of the County’s animal shelters in Kent and the Crossroads area by January 31, 2010, with a cooperative transition of animals to one or more new entities that would provide sheltering services.

“This legislation closes the chapter on King County’s provision of animal shelter services, ensuring that stray animals will be cared for by an organization with the resources and expertise to care for our animals humanely,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “We are also getting out of the business of providing subsidized animal control and animal licensing services for contract cities—these are services King County can no longer afford to provide given our budget crisis.”

“For the welfare of homeless pets in King County, sheltering services should be provided by community animal welfare partners whose primary mission is to deliver humane care for homeless pets and find them forever homes,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “I am especially encouraged by the provision to establish an animal response team that combines county, community and volunteer resources to prepare for emergency protection of pets in the event of a disaster.”

If the County is to continue providing animal control field services past June 30, 2010, the motion calls for the costs in incorporated areas to be fully reimbursed by the cities contracting for those services, in accordance with previously established County policy requiring full cost recovery on discretionary contractual services. Cities will have the flexibility of commissioning their own animal control officers and using pet license fees to fund the positions. Thirty-two cities now contract with King County for field services that include response to complaints of vicious animals and bites; investigation of animal cruelty cases; pick up of injured animals, stray dogs and cats, owner-released pets, and deceased animals; and response to barking dog complaints.

As the local service provider to the unincorporated areas, King County will continue to provide animal control field services to those areas. The legislation requires that a study be completed by March 31, 2010, to:

• Analyze what revenues, expenditures and business activities are needed to meet the County's animal control responsibilities under state law,

• Analyze and present historical records on pet license revenues from unincorporated areas as well as historical cost estimates for the provision of animal control services in the unincorporated areas,

• Present potential options for the provision of animal control services in the unincorporated areas that are fully supported by the revenues from animal license fees, or other revenue-generating options that do not require support from the County General Fund.


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