Doggone It, Burien Needs A New Plan For Animal Control


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by Ralph Nichols

When King County stops providing animal control services for 35 suburban cities on July 1, pets will still stray from home and get lost, and dangerous animals will still roam about in some neighborhoods.

Now how to replace these services – field control, sheltering, and licensing – is yet another challenge facing cash-strapped cities as King County, with even greater budget woes, continues to cut more programs.

All five Highline-area cities currently receive varying levels of animal control services, which have been provided on a regional basis by the county since the 1980s. In recent years, however, the county has subsidized this system with more than $2 million annually from its general fund to cover these costs.

Looking for ways to fill this pending void, a joint cities-county work group including eight suburban cities – SeaTac and Tukwila among them – has spent the past three months developing a new regional model for humane animal control services.

That plan was officially proposed on April7, and presented to the Burien City Council for its consideration on April 12.

Ken Nakatsu, King County animal services manager, told city lawmakers the plan includes economies of scale and financial incentives “for cities that promote public health and safety, animal welfare and customer service, and help contain costs for all participants over time.”

The cost to Burien would be about $163,000 a year, Nakatsu said.

Mayor Joan McGilton voiced concern about where Burien could find another $163,000, noting that amount equals “the entire city social services budget.”

The plan would divide the county into four animal control districts, each of which would be staffed by at least one officer a day, and would utilize the existing animal shelter in Kent, he continued. The work group hopes to find volunteer shelter director, in addition to volunteer caretakers, to hold costs down.

A field sergeant, an animal cruelty sergeant and a three-person call center with after-hours dispatch through the King County Sheriff’s Office would support all four districts.

Nakatsu noted that while the county would administer a single pet licensing system, the license fees collected from residents of a city would be credited back to that city against its share of the program’s cost.

With pet licensing revenue from fees and related fines currently covering about 60 percent of the cost of the proposed regional service model, he said participating cities would be responsible for about $4.1 million for the remaining expenses – or about $1.9 million after license fees are credited back.

King County would provide transition funding totaling $325,000 for the second half of this year and $650,000 in 2011 for cities above the median cost for these services, including Burien, SeaTac and Tukwila.

Burien’s cost would be an estimated $283,000 annually. After the city got back an estimated $180,000 in license fees and other revenue, it would have to cover a shortfall of approximately $163,000.

Councilman Jack Block Jr. said he thinks Burien “can find a better and more cost-effective way to deliver these services.” Block said he is concerned about the cost of enforcement when the transition funds from the county run out.

The city council will discuss the proposed plan for animal control services again at their April 26 meeting. Initial statements of interest from cities are needed by the county by April 20, and all participating cities need to sign a contract to join this regional services system before June 30.

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Comments

27 Responses to “Doggone It, Burien Needs A New Plan For Animal Control”
  1. Leslie Kasper says:

    I would like to make it clear that the county wants an ADDITIONAL $163,000 over and above the amount already collected by licensing fees which averages $120,000 for Burien residents. So, residents and the city would be providing over $280,000 to the county a year for services of one officer over 4 cities (SeaTac, Tukwila, Kent and Burien).

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  2. Chris says:

    Shoot, keep the money and hire someone who works for the City of Burien and serves as CSO (Community Service Officer) and as animal control. Cross-train them to do more than one job, so they are more useful. Heck, you could even have them respond to non-emergency service type calls, to deal with non PD matters, etc.

    This has all been talked about recently by the council–paricularly by Councilman Block.

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    • Bonnie says:

      Excuse me Chris!? Using a CSO as animal control? These folks help the community a great deal and take a lot off an officer’s plate. Shame on you!

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  3. Julie Dosono says:

    outlaw Bitbulls

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    • Julie Dosono says:

      Something needs to be done…I can’t even walk my dog around my street without some loose bitbull going after my dog…I carry a stick ,pepper spray maybe I should carry something else

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  4. Julie Dosono says:

    I ment outlaw Pitbulls

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  5. Jack Block Jr. says:

    FYI- Last year KC Animal control impounded 53 stray dogs in Burien. At the projected annual cost of $250k we heard at the last Council meeting that works out to about $5K per dog. I think that we can do a better job at a lower cost. Realistically, Animal Control enforcement in Burien is at most a 20 hour a week job. I’d suggest hiring an additional Community Service Officer and train our CSOs to do animal control enforcement . A local pet care facility could be contracted to provide interim shelter services and an interested non-profit could be contracted for longer term shelter services and if needed adoption. I’d estimate such a program could be operated for $150K or less.

    Having CSO officers based in the community would help to protect against problems such as Julie has pointed out, and also expand crime prevention opportunities and outreach, not to mention the benefits of having an extra set of eyes out on the street.

    One caveat: Currently only 20% of Burien’s citizens purchase pet licenses. This produces about $120K in revenue. The license compliance rate is going to have to increase so we can have the revenue to operate an animal control program without having to raid the general fund.

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    • Bonnie says:

      I think you are way off base asking a CSO to become animal control. They do a lot for this community already. I am going to do a lot of re-thinking in the next election.

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  6. Jim Branson says:

    Why not pay for animal control by actually enforcing the law? It’s supposed to be a $250 fine for having your dog off-leash, and yet the City has never asked anyone to pay that fine one single time. If there are any records of a Burien citizen being cited and actually paying that fine, I would like to see them. People let their dogs off-leash every day, in our neighborhoods and in our parks, putting their own dogs at risk and causing environmental damage. Writing one or two tickets a day would cover most or all of the cost of an animal control officer. Most of all, it would make our existing animal welfare laws meaningful. If you never enforce the law, then there is no point in even having the law. My dogs, while walking on leash, have been attacked by off-leash dogs on seven different occasions. My local government tells me they will do nothing to prevent such attacks in the future. (The way they put it is that they will do nothing different than what they are currently doing, which amounts to the same thing.) If they would actually enforce the law, they could generate revenue to support animal welfare and also perform the basic function of government, which is to keep citizens safe.

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    • Really? says:

      Jim, a very good comment, and one that should be answered by city officials. Can ticket revenue can be directed to specific purposes? Just wondering, where is ticket revenue assigned now, the general fund?

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    • Lee Moyer says:

      I wish the laws could b e enforced, but it is not that simple. To have enforcement we need a trained officer, a vehicle to transport the animals and a facility to house them. That woult take a permanent staff. With out these three items, ther can be no enforcement. If an officer sees a roaming dog, he doesn’t know who the owner is, all he can do is capture the animal and hold it till the owner claims it. Even if he sees the owner, the owner can deny that it is his animal. Why admit ownership if the officer will leave the animal?
      Maybe we need a law that says we can capture an animal that is on our property or threatening us or our animals and requires the owner to pay us a bounty for the return of his animal. Or we can take the animal to a animal control facility. Citizen enforcement. No officials required.

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      • Jim Branson says:

        Once again, Lee, you have managed to think of the worst possible solution to a problem. If a dog is not properly contained or on a leash, it is not the fault of the dog. It is the fault of a negligent owner. The one that needs to be educated and compelled to take responsibility is the owner of the dog. Fines would help to do that. Capturing dogs is time-consuming, often dangerous, and can put the dog at risk of death if the owner doesn’t come to the shelter to claim the dog. Untrained citizens capturing dogs and holding them for ransom is illegal, and for good reason.

        We already have trained officers, vehicles, and staff. If King County were no longer employing them, they would likely be available for employment by Burien. If the current laws had been enforced all along, King County Animal Control wouldn’t be in such sad shape. It is the people who break the rules that are straining the animal welfare system by flooding the area with unwanted animals.

        Why should all citizens be burdened with the costs and problems created by a minority of citizens who don’t take proper care of their animals? If people would spay and neuter, license, and leash and scoop, the need for agencies such as King County Animal Care and Control would be reduced. If Burien gets into the animal welfare business, enforcing the laws and levying fines on people who break the law would put the financial burden on those people who are creating the problem. It would also give them an incentive to take proper care of their pets, since they seem to lack common sense.

        Mr. Moyer, please tell me you don’t own a dog. You don’t seem competent to care for one.

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        • Lee Moyer says:

          Once again, Jim, you miss the point of a letter and go on a personal attack. My basic point was, if the officer can’t capture the animal, what leverage does he have to issue a ticket if the owner doesn’t admit that it is his dog, or, more often, it is just a dog on the loose?
          I agree it is not the dog’s fault and owners need to be responsble. I never said otherwise, so why did you bring that up?
          I also agree that it is unfortunate that the majority have to bear the burden of policing a small minority of abusers, but isn’t that the typical situation with the police departments and even your proposal for a park ranger? Sometimes it is necessary.
          None of this has anything to do with my owning a dog, but for the record, I do own one and if you actually knew the details, I think even you would approve of how it is cared for.

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  7. Coverofnight says:

    Wow, this IS a tough one……..I like the idea someone had of hiring our own animal control officer(s). If we had 100% participation of the licensing, we’d probably have enough to cover their expenses. I gotta admit that I’m surprised to be in the minority when it comes to licensing my dog. But how do we find these violators? They’re probably the same violators who shoot off fireworks every July 4th even though the fireworks are illegal in this City – find the illegal fireworks and you’ll probably find an illegal dog.

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  8. TcB says:

    There are a lot of support services besides just hiring one officer. Are you going to ask the contract pet care facility to euthanize the dogs who aren’t adopted? Dogs and Cats are regularly euthanized when they stay past their “limit” and more space is needed. Not to mention health care that is provided for the animals. Stricter enforcement of licensing is just the first step that is needed. Make the people start to pay, but watch out! they’ll just start a campaign to knock the elected officials out of office because when you mention money the people around here get over the top angry!

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  9. Rob says:

    Has anybody contacted the Humane Society in BELLEVUE to see if they contract animal control services? Seems like a big deal to hire animal control officers, pay insurance and uniform, training… 4 officers would eadily cost more the 163,000 per year. Of course, thanks to the former interim County Executive there will be a surplus of trained Animal Control Officers available in June.

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  10. Rob says:

    Also – why is burien paying in to King County for pet liscensing– After the county is out of the animal control business Burien should set up their own license for animals… keep the revenue local!!!

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  11. Jessica says:

    Burien should look towards Des Moines. Owners of dogs that disturb neighbors by barking are quickly fined. A friend of mine can’t leave his dogs home alone at night because he keeps getting fined. There is an auto repair business next to my home that has “guard dogs” that the owner abuses because he says he wants the dogs to hate humans and the dogs bark 24/7 365 days a year. My neighbors and I have given up complaining to the city because we are told by the police they can’t do anything about it. I’m pretty sure fining dog owners would certainly help the budget as well as help Burien a place to get good night’s sleep. It’s 11 p.m. and the dogs just starting barking again….

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    • Coverofnight says:

      Dogs dig and dogs bark…..and dogs bark because of wildlife roaming around, other dogs, prowlers, neighborhood catfights, strangers walking down the street with or without their dogs, door-to-door salespeople, meter readers, etc. Fining dog owners for barking is TOTALLY wrong! In fact, 95% of neighbors get to know the differences in a dog’s bark and can tell when something is up and that they better check on what’s bothering the dog. They appreciate this extra measure of security that dogs in a neighborhood offer to all. I do agree though, that the auto repair business situation sounds excessive and corrective action should be taken – but in the other situation where an owner was fined when his dog is INSIDE the house? Sounds like the neighbor should go with triple-pane windows or simply leave the radio or TV on low to mask the sound…….or better yet, MOVE you pathetic, loser dog-hater!

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      • TomJones says:

        @coverofnight

        Yeah, insults work great for your argument. but the world has to stop for you right???/snark

        No, you take care of your dog and train it properly. Barking at all hours of the night is a nuisance to neighbors. Reasonable barking is fine in appropriate situations, but when people leave them alone at night in their backyard and they bark and yelp constantly for hours at every single noise it’s a problem. The owner should be warned and then fined if the problem isn’t remedied.

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  12. citizen says:

    NEW BURIEN CITY COUNCIL PET PROJECT…….City of Burien will be installing Doggie Cameras on All City Streets..!!!! with or without potholes……

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  13. Kitty says:

    Can someone tell me where to find Burien’s regulations on dogs? I’ve been taking my dog to Seahurst Park for 11+ years. ALWAYS on leash at the beach. I admit I sometimes let her off for 5 minutes to run on the wooded trails, then call her back and re-leash her. (I have extreme arthritis in the knees and can’t run any longer.)

    Above comments indicate a max $250 fine for having a dog off leash. I have never seen an animal control person in ANY park in the 20 years I’ve lived in the Seattle area, until last Saturday. At Seahurst, the park employee (I assume) was stopping all dog owners to tell them the fine is $5000 and one year in jail. (Does that mean letting your dog off leash is a felony??) I believe in laws and controlling animals, but really…. that fine is totally out of line.

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    • Michael says:

      Hi Kitty,

      I was curious to see if I could ferret out an answer to your question. It turns out the information is available online, but you have to wade through several documents on multiple websites to get to an answer.

      Caveat: I’m not a lawyer and this is just my opinion based on a review of the Burien and King County ordinances that apply.

      First, you can review the Burien ordinances here. Section 6.10.100 declares Burien a “dog control zone” and establishes that we follow the applicable King County Code.

      You can find the King County ordinances here. Section 11 deals with animal control. Chapter 11.08 is the leash law. It basically says that in a dog control zone, your pet must be on a leash unless you’re engaged in training your dog, hunting with your dog or it’s a working dog.

      Chapter 11.08.050 defines the violation as a misdemeanor penalty with a maximum fine of not more than $250 and/or jail time of up to 90 days. Chapter 11.08.060 allows an additional civil penalty as provided in chapter 11.04.035 which includes monetary fines (up to $1000), impoundment and billable costs of care and control of the animal.

      Again, that’s my layman’s analysis based on reading the applicable ordinances. It seems to suggest that the “park employee” is either misinformed or misrepresenting himself on the degree of the penalty, but it is true that within Burien city limits dogs must be on leashes at all times unless they fit a fairly narrow exemption.

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    • Jim Branson says:

      Who was this supposed parks employee? What did he look like?

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  14. Kitty says:

    Thanks for your research and replies.

    To Jim B: I was so shocked I didn’t think to inspect the truck closely, but it was a black pickup with Animal Control lettered on it, with the gray animal containment units in the back. Looked completely legit.

    To Michael: That is exactly what I kept finding online, but the the King Cty animal control field sergeant gave me this reply (sorry, it’s fairly long):

    Here are the Burien Municipal Codes:
    6.10.100 Dog leash law – Adopted by reference.
    The entire city is designated a dog control zone and the following sections of Chapter 11.08 KCC, as now in effect, and as may be subsequently amended, are adopted by reference, except that, unless the context indicates otherwise, the word “county” and the words “King County” shall refer to the city and references to violations of the county code or county ordinances shall be deemed to be references to violations of city ordinances:
    KCC
    11.08.010 Purpose.
    11.08.020 Definitions.
    11.08.030 Dogs at large prohibited in dog control zones.
    11.08.060 Violations – Civil penalty.
    11.08.070 Severability.
    [Ord. 11 § 5, 1993]
    6.05.500 Violation – Penalty.
    Any person who allows an animal to be maintained in violation of this title, or otherwise violates or fails to comply with any requirement of this title, shall be guilty of a violation of a city ordinance and shall be subject to punishment by fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment for a term not in excess of one year, or both. [Ord. 11 § 11, 1993] (end)

    I sent an email to the Burien City Council. I just tried to share my view that the penalty should fit the crime, and that the excessive fine sends the wrong message: “we don’t want you here”. Not the welcoming friendly face most cities want to promote.

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    • Michael says:

      Hmm, I went back and looked and he’s right. The Burien Municipal Code 6.05.500 does in fact make the potential punishment far more severe than the King County Code. Interesting, I wonder what led to that decision. Especially since it doesn’t appear to be enforced very often.

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  15. Kitty says:

    I hope that anyone else who feels the $5000/one year in jail penalty for an off-leash dog is excessive and sends a very authoritarian message, will let the Burien City Council know your thoughts. ([email protected]) I sent them my two cents and received a reply that my message would be included in the correspondence at their next council meeting. It’s nice to be heard… even if it doesn’t change anything.

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