Should Burien Have Its Own Animal Control Program? Take Our Poll
Should Burien opt out of King Countyâ€™s proposed regional animal control system and adopt its own local program?
This unusual step is exactly what City Manager Mike Martin will propose to city council members at their April 26 meeting (Monday, 7 p.m.).
â€œIt would do something that, to the best of my knowledge, has not been done anywhere else,â€ Martin told The B-Town Blog last week. â€œIt is contrary to what cities usually do.â€
Yet, he noted, a Burien animal control program could result in substantial savings â€“ and better local service â€“ for the city than what the proposed regional system would provide.
King County has provided animal control, sheltering and licensing services for cities, in exchange for keeping all pet licensing revenue, since the mid-1980s. But the county will no longer provide these services after June 30 due to its ongoing budget problems.
To fill this void, a Joint Cities-Counties Work Group has developed an agreement in principle for a regional animal control system. The county wants letters of intent by April 30 from cities that plan to participate
Beginning in 2011, â€œfor a quarter of a million dollars [a year], we would share an animal control officer with six other cities,â€ Martin said. The new program would cost Burien $81,000 for the last six months of this year.
The lone officer would also be responsible for animal calls in White Center, SeaTac, Tukwila, Kent, Skyway and, after a ferry ride, in Vashon, just eight hours a day for five days a week. Only emergency response would be available the other two days.
Shelter services still would be provided by the county at an average cost of $350 an animal.
For these among other reasons, â€œI will recommend that the council terminates on July 1 animal control services with King County, and that we look for something different,â€ Martin said.
Options available to Burien include partnering with neighboring cities, developing the cityâ€™s own â€œin-houseâ€ program, or accepting private proposals and contracting out animal control services.
â€œThis is a community that is very interested in its pets,â€ said Martin, himself the owner of dogs who sometimes visit city hall.
If the council accepts his recommendation, he will send out a request for proposals for animal control services later in the week.
Martin said it is likely that several individuals would participate in providing animal control services for Burien under such an arrangement.
For example, â€œa kennel that would provide shelter services may not want to pick up stray animals. And an SUV owner might put cages in his vehicle and pick up strays, but would not provide shelter.â€
â€œThis can be really good money, a real job with serious money,â€ for local service providers, he added. They would be expected to have a personal and professional commitment to the quality treatment of animals in their care.
More than 750 animal-related calls were received in Burien, including newly annexed North Burien, in 2008, according to the city. Among these were 47 vicious dog calls, 34 cases of animal cruelty, 26 injured animals, and 10 animal bites. (The breakdown of calls was not available for North Burien.)
Funding for a Burien animal-control program would come in part from issuing pet licenses. In 2009, an estimated 4,468 licenses were issued for pets in the city â€“ accounting for only 20 percent of the local pet population â€“ with estimated revenue of $119,251.
The city sells King County pet licenses, then transfers the money to the county.
A King County license for a spayed or neutered dog costs $30 a year. Unaltered dogs cost more; altered cats cost less.
Martin hopes that if Burien starts its own animal control program, the city will cut the cost of pet licenses in half and, in turn, see the licensing compliance rate among pet owners increase to at least 60 percent.
To do this, he plans to encourage local businesses to get involved in promoting licensing pets by offering coupons for pet services.
In addition, some other special funds could be use to help pay for a city animal control program.
â€œExcept for vicious animals, animal control is a discretionary service.â€ But Burien, a pet-friendly city, is looking for ways to do more â€“ at a substantially lower cost than through the countyâ€™s new regional program.
What do YOU think Burien should do? Please take our Poll or leave a Comment below…