Should Burien Have Its Own Animal Control Program? Take Our Poll

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by Ralph Nichols

Should Burien opt out of King County’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.).

“It would do something that, to the best of my knowledge, has not been done anywhere else,” Martin told The B-Town Blog last week. “It is contrary to what cities usually do.”

Yet, he noted, a Burien animal control program could result in substantial savings – and better local service – 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, “for a quarter of a million dollars [a year], we would share an animal control officer with six other cities,” 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, “I will recommend that the council terminates on July 1 animal control services with King County, and that we look for something different,” Martin said.

Options available to Burien include partnering with neighboring cities, developing the city’s own “in-house” program, or accepting private proposals and contracting out animal control services.

“This is a community that is very interested in its pets,” 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, “a 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.”

“This can be really good money, a real job with serious money,” 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 – accounting for only 20 percent of the local pet population – 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.

“Except for vicious animals, animal control is a discretionary service.” But Burien, a pet-friendly city, is looking for ways to do more – at a substantially lower cost than through the county’s new regional program.

What do YOU think Burien should do? Please take our Poll or leave a Comment below…

Should Burien create & run its own Animal Control Program?

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12 Responses to “Should Burien Have Its Own Animal Control Program? Take Our Poll”
  1. Gorfsnopple says:

    Not in a recession.

    When the economy turns around, possibly.

  2. Lee Moyer says:

    We need to know more. Presumably the 750 calls were of the type an animal control officer would respond to. The breakdown only covers about 20 % of the calls. Were these the most urgent or how were they selected?
    More importantly, how many responses were there and what is that breakdown?
    What was the most common type of call?
    How many animals were actually picked up? What happened to those animals?
    How many citations were written and of what type?
    What evidence is there that cutting the fee in half will triple the compliance? My subjective observation is that sone owners just don’t care or refuse on principle, I doubt that they even know what the fee is.

  3. TcB says:

    it would appear to be much cheaper to figure it out for ourselves. That’s all I need to know. One officer for all those cities? The only cheaper option would be to hire some of the crazies here to roam neighborhoods shooting dogs. I know there are some who’d do it.

  4. Chris says:

    As I (and others ) have said before: Create the position, and make it a multi-role job. Animal control AND Community Services Officer.

    Hire someone, put them through training and get them to work.

    It really can be that simple.

    • Pauline says:

      Both animal control officer and community services officer are full-time jobs — it wouldn’t work to combine them into one.

  5. SloMo says:

    “Shelter services still would be provided by the county at an average cost of $350 an animal.”

    I was wondering how a local program could achieve the economies of scale needed to be cost effective until I read this. Seriously what is wrong with the King County shelter that it costs an average of $350 per animal? Is it regulatory overhead? Union contracts? Facility lease? Mismanagement? Cadillac care?

    What do private shelters charge?

    • blink says:

      First of the animals at king county shelter do NOT cost over 100 for many years. If they do start to cost 350.00 may be a bit much how ever it about time something went up for the pets in the shelter other then food meds and vet cost. 75.00 bucks for a dog is so freaking cheap you can not get your pet spayed vac and up to date on shots for that cheap any place you go. So I think if they do go up that much its about time. IF KING COUNTY COUNCIL MEMBERS would have upped the price on adoption price and backed up the the people who care for the animals the shelter would not have to deal with all of this. o yes and you want to know how much private shelters charge a heck of alot more then 75 bucks some even have charged up to 1500.00 bucks because its was flown here from BFE and a puppy mill rescue good for them for helping a puppy mill pups but we do have our own state that needs help. Sorry the truth hurts

  6. catnmouse says:

    SloMo: $350/animal is an average cost for food, sheltering, vaccinations and medical care – higher if an animal is not spayed or neutered; higher still if the animal comes in pregnant and gives birth, or comes in injured and can be saved (maimed, injured etc).

    From the article, “For example, “a 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.”

    All I can say is keep smokin’ what you’ve got, because that is a pipe dream.

    You think an individual is going to spend the time approaching a stray animal whose condition or disposition they know nothing of and just put it in the back of their SUV? Ever try to put a large 60lb dog t in the back of an SUV in a kennel? How about a freaked out cat, or a litter? Is Burien going to pay said owner for gas and cleanup and sanitization of the kennels after each trip, when the dogs or cats have pooped/peed, vomited or bled in their car?

    And, what are you going to do about helping people find their lost pets? Send them to all the kennels in the area that are “sheltering”? How will you manage consistent quality of care? How will you manage communication with the kennels and the public? How will you get the animals adopted? How will kennels be compensated for caring for animals long term or sheltering long term? What will you do when the animal has been there for 3 months and the kennel needs the space?

    Freakin’ joke Burien.

  7. parkerd says:

    Mr Martin has no idea what he is talking about. You can tell just by the fact he would suggest someone drive around in an SUV to pick up strays. This will inevitably result in a law suit Burien can’t afford. He has spent zero time actually looking at the requriements for animal control or at the proposal from the county.
    The more cities that get involved in the regional plan the less it costs each city. In the first year the county is asking for 1 million dollars spread amongst all of the cities involved in the plan. Far less than what Mr Martin is claiming. Lisence fees will be split by the cities and the county reducing the cost to the cities. Also the cost is on a sliding scale depending on the number of calls received per city.
    The city of Burien will end up in a deep financial whole and the animals will suffer if the council listens to Mr Martin.

  8. Lynnette says:

    Well, I guess we certainly know how Ralph Nichols and Mike Martin want you to vote. This obvious piece of dishonest propaganda is clearly geared to make people think the proposed animal control and sheltering plan is a bad idea. (It’s not.) I’m not sure where the “six cities will share one officer” thing came from OR the $350 per animal line. If you think that sounds preposterous and appalling, that’s because it IS — oh, and did I mention that it’s not anywhere close to accurate?
    If Burien decides to have some happy go lucky clown with an SUV roam around the city picking up animals, I hope they spend a huge, whopping amount of money on insurance. I own several dogs and they are all licensed and well-cared for — and very valuable. IF one of them ever became lost somehow and some loser injured my dog by chasing her around, attempting to wrestle her into a crate, or dumping her at a “kennel” where who knows what ignorant, untrained person might feed her something bad or expose her to a sick or aggressive animal, I PROMISE I will find the BEST attorney I can and I will sue the city of Burien for the value of my dog and her vet bills and any punitive damages I can get AND I will be sure that everyone involved will be prosecuted for animal cruelty charges. How many of you would want your beloved cat or dog hassled by some fool with an SUV and a bunch of cages? How many of you own a cat or dog and would say, “Amen!” to suing the city over a stunt like that? Think about that one, Mike Martin.
    I will close with a true story that shows the importance of our well-trained, experienced King County Animal Control Officers. I hope you will realize how important it is to keep them on the job and to give them the means to keep serving our community.
    Last summer, a King County sheriff’s deputy came to my house. There were 8 sheep running around loose on 8th Avenue S. Someone told him that I might be able to help. I offered the services of my herding dog — but what would the deputy do with the sheep once we rounded them up? (Oh gosh, maybe just take them to a “kennel” somewhere?) Meanwhile, some wise person called KCACC. Animal Control Officer Pam McLaren arrived on the scene and observed that these were not sheep, they were GOATS. Officer McLaren organized the well-meaning, but bewildered deputies into an efficient goat-herding group, got the goats under control, and located their owner — all without harm to the goats or to the yards and gardens of nearby residents. Officer McLaren had the whole thing wrapped up by the time my herding dog and I arrived from 12 blocks away. Top that, Mr. SUV Guy.

  9. catnmouse says:

    I feel sorry for the pets and animals in Burien, now that Burien has foolishly decided to do it’s own thing. Mike Martin and the City Council (sans Lucy Krakowiak), you can’t be serious. And I’m pretty sure the smart dog walkers, veterinarians, feral cat people and other animal-oriented people that you have “convened” for input are thinking what a huge cluster you’re leading the city into. Kudos to Council member Lucy Krakowiak for really thinking it through and voting “No” to this stupid plan.

  10. Teri says:

    of the greater solution. We need a consistent, collaborative team of cities, rescue groups, everyday citizens, etc, working towards root cause analysis and humane solutions. Let’s work together to reduce the kill rate of animal companions and increase the save rate.

    How? By implementing best practices around programs such as:

    1) Pet Retention Programs / Help Animals Stay With Their People.
    –this program would include targeted spay/neuter; pet food pantries; a behavior hotline/website; sliding scale fees for microchips, licenses and dog/human training classes; temporary boarding during emergencies; etc.
    2) Countywide Feral Cat TTVAR Program (Trap-Test-Vaccinate-Alter-Return). 85% of the kittens that enter our shelters are born to stray or feral mothers. Let’s stop the rain!

    If we reduce the number of births, we can increase the number of adult animals that are adopted; improve /eliminate behavior problems that lead to surrendering of pets; and reduce everyone’s long term cost for animal sheltering and control.

    Please encourage our cities to take a step back and look at the long term, big picture solution and ask them to contract with the new KC Regional Plan.

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