Six members of the Metropolitan King County Council today introduced legislation directing the County Executive to end the provision of animal sheltering services by April 1, 2010, and end the provision of animal control services to the cities by that same date unless new agreements are made that allow the County to recover the full costs of field services.
"After four reports, including today's audit, that outline extensive management inadequacies and a chaotic work environment, it is time we transition the dogs and cats in our care to a provider that can demonstrate the ability to run a model animal welfare program," said Councilmember Julia Patterson. "A majority of the Council today sponsored an aggressive but responsible and deliberative approach that will provide a better service to our cities and a healthier environment for the homeless dogs and cats in King County."
"Despite the best efforts of dedicated employees to improve shelter operations, it is time for a change," said Council Vice Chair Bob Ferguson. "The Seattle Humane Society's offer to take responsibility for the animals in our care is one proposal that could create a win-win for the animals and the County."
The proposed motion would end operation of the County's animal shelter in Kent and the Crossroads area by April 1, 2010, with a cooperative transition of animals to a new entity that would provide sheltering services.
"We will pursue seamless quality of service for the animals, for owners and for prospective pet owners," said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague.
If the County is to continue providing animal control field services past April 1, 2010, the motion calls for that cost to be fully reimbursed by the cities contracting for those services, in accordance with County policy requiring full cost recovery on discretionary contractual services. Cities will have the flexibility of commissioning their own animal control officer and using pet license fees to fund the position. 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, owner-released pets, and deceased animals; and response to barking dog complaints.
"This legislation continues the process the Council initiated last November to transition King County out of the animal shelter business," said Council Chair Dow Constantine. "Given the stated interest of a capable community-based provider in taking over shelter care, this change will lead to improved service for our cities and better conditions for homeless animals."
As the local service provider to the unincorporated areas, King County will continue to provide animal control field services to those areas. Today's legislation requires that a study be completed by March 1, 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.
"The County and the cities will need to work together over the next five months to ensure options exist that protect citizens and provide for the humane care of animals," said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. "The reports and audits over the last few years make it clear that animal care needs to be provided in new and improved ways."
"Today's audit confirms that it's in the best interest of our animals to turn over sheltering responsibilities to an organization with a proven track record of following best practices for humane care," said Councilmember Larry Phillips. "With King County's budget crisis, we don't have the resources to ensure animals in our care get the humane treatment they deserve, so we must turn to a new approach."
King County Auditor Cheryle Broom today released a performance audit of the King County Animal Care and Control program that found that despite some improvements at the County's primary animal shelter in Kent, several problems still exist in its leadership, organization, and operation.
In anticipation of the flood threat in the Green River Valley, the County Executive has already announced his plan to relocate animals from the shelter in Kent and close the facility by November 1. He has proposed the transition of both animal sheltering and animal control services to a new entity by June 30, 2010.
The Council on Oct. 19 provided emergency flood funding to lease a temporary King County animal shelter for just five months, until April 30, 2010, and prohibited the use of those emergency funds for purchase of an animal services facility.
The proposed legislation has been referred to the Council's Committee of the Whole, which anticipates holding a briefing as soon as Nov. 2.