Proposed Animal Control Services Contract to be Reviewed by City Council

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by Ralph Nichols

A proposed contract for city animal control services, which will go into effect on July 1 if approved, will be presented to Burien council members for discussion tonight (June 14).

Because the first of two public forums on the Shoreline Management Program will follow this discussion, the council meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., one hour earlier than usual.

Burien is getting into animal control services because King County is getting out – leaving cities to join its new regional plan or to adopt their own programs.

King County has provided animal control, sheltering and licensing services for cities since the mid-1980s, in exchange for keeping all pet licensing revenue.

But the county, financially troubled and long criticized for the operation of its animal shelters, is ending this program to reduce general-fund expenses.

Twenty-seven cities have signed letters of intent to join the county’s new collaborative approach for providing animal control services.

Most Burien council members, however, think this regional program would cost the city too much for too little service.

“The city didn’t feel comfortable with the level of service we would get,” City Manager Mike Martin told The B-Town Blog last week.

“With this plan, we will save money and get a better level of service, I’m sure. We will provide a level of service equal to – or better than – the service we have been getting from King County.”

The proposed program will cost Burien $120,000 a year for contracting out animal field and sheltering services, said Jenn Ramirez Robson, a city management analyst.

Participation in the county’s regional cooperative would have cost the city almost $250,000 next year – while sharing a single animal control officer eight hours a day, five days a week, with several other cities and unincorporated areas from Skyway to Vashon, Ramirez Robson noted.

“This is still cheaper than King County by a long shot,” Martin observed.

These factors prompted the council to direct city officials in April to notify the county that Burien would not join the new regional program, and to issue a request for proposals to provide local animal control services.

Dr. Leslie Kasper, a veterinarian and owner of Companion Animal Medical Center in Normandy Park, will provide animal control services for the city of Burien.

Under the proposed contract, all animal control services, except for pet licensing, will be provided by Dr. Leslie Kasper, a veterinarian and owner of Companion Animal Medical Center in Normandy Park.

Primary services will include round-the-clock emergency response for vicious animals, animals with life-threatening injuries, and cases of hardship or law enforcement assistance, and maintenance of an animal shelter with 24/7 emergency access.

The animal shelter – which, Martin said, is closer for the public to retrieve their stray pets than the existing facility in Kent – will be staffed by qualified personnel and open to the public 40 hours a week including Saturdays.

Kasper will provide these services with the city as Burien Animal Care and Control.

Nancy McKenney, with 27 years of animal-welfare experience, assisted city staff in developing this program. Her involvement, added Martin, should offset criticism by some that the city didn’t know what it was doing in taking on animal control services.

The city will take over pet licensing services – and cut license fees in half from what has been charged by King County. These fees will be lowered on July 1 from $30 to $15 for spayed and neutered pets, and from $90 to $50 for unaltered animals.

Current pet licenses issued by King County to owners residing in Burien will be honored through June 30, 2011, and lifetime pet licenses issued by the county to seniors will also be honored.

The city has been collecting about $119,000 in pet license fees annually and transferring these funds to King County, which would have continued to take this revenue under its regional plan – while also billing Burien an additional $120,000 for these services next year.

Burien will collect about half that amount – an estimated $60,000 – with its lower fee structure, Ramirez Robson said. The rest of the money to pay for the city’s animal control services will come from discretionary general fund revenue.

“We’ll still save $120,000 a year,” Martin said. “The first year we’ll take a loss. That’s life. But by getting fees down to a reasonable level [and increasing license purchases by pet owners], we hope to be self-sustaining in one to three years.”

Martin and Ramirez Robson will recommend to council members that they approve or modify the animal control services contract, and then place it on a future meeting agenda for final adoption before July 1.

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2 Responses to “Proposed Animal Control Services Contract to be Reviewed by City Council”
  1. Coverofnight says:

    This sounds like a pretty good solution. It also sounds like it will be run by an individual who truly cares about the health and welfare of animals. I would gladly pay the full licensing fee for this service and not short the paving budget by making up the difference from the general fund.

  2. Ernie and Vera says:

    I have real reservations about how this situation will be handled, but will hope and pray it will be responsive to the needs of our animal friends….

    .It will be interesting to also see if we get any assistance with enforcement of leash laws in our parks where dogs should be leashed and very often are not.

    I’m hoping the City will send out notification of these animal control services, with phone numbers, etc.

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