Burien City Council To Review Options For Providing Local Animal Control
by Ralph Nichols
A divided Burien City Council will revisit tonight (April 11) the question of how community animal control services should be managed.
City Manager Mike Martin informed council members last week that a newly formed non-profit group – the Community Animal Resource Education Society (CARES), headed by Debra George – had submitted the successful proposal to take over Burien’s animal care and control program.
George, co-owner of The MARK Restaurant, also manages the Burien Farmers Market and coordinates special events for Discover Burien, She is also a former executive director of the downtown organization.
Martin also told the council, based on its decision earlier this year to find a new contractor for animal control services, that he would execute a contract with CARES unless directed otherwise.
But following a lengthy council discussion, divergent views about the efficacy of CARES’ proposal prompted lawmakers to ask for additional information before giving that contract a green light or opting to go in a different direction.
Some council members wondered if CARES can do all the group says it will – enforcement of animal control laws, picking up stray, injured and dangerous animals, and sheltering and adopting unclaimed dogs and cats – with just $120,000 annually from the city.
Councilman Jack Block Jr. pressed for an animal control officer to be hired by the Burien Police Department. Des Moines’ animal control officer is sworn police officer in that city, which contracts out for shelter services and doesn’t provide for adoptions.
“What does the community expect and what does the community desire for animal control services?” Block asked. Answering his own question, he said it wants these services “delivered in an expeditious and professional manner.”
Expressing his concern about the level and quality of enforcement, Block added, “I desire to see us hire in-house an animal control officer.”
But Mayor Joan McGilton said, “I very strongly want to see us manage this in an efficient manner … hiring an officer like Des Moines for animal control poses a dilemma to the city.”
Once again, Councilwoman Lucy Krakowiak supported the option that would cost Burien the most while giving city residents the least animal control.
Declaring “it’s important to really consider our level of service,” Krakowiak said the regional King County animal control program, which includes adoption and spaying and neutering, “is the way to go.”
The new county program, which went into effect last July 1, would cost Burien about $300,000 annually for a single officer – whose services would be shared with several other jurisdictions, putting that officer in Burien only eight hours a week.
Should CARES be awarded the contract for providing Burien’s animal care and control services, it would receive $10,000 a month from the city for a total of $360,000 from May 1 through April 2014.
In addition to George, CARES includes:
Michael Snyder, president of a local American Pit Bull Terrier club and a past national president of that organization for 10 years, who would be the full-time lead animal control field officer.
Sherry Meyers, a 20-year volunteer in the rescue, rehabilitation and placement of dogs in the Puget Sound region, who would coordinate animal placement. Meyers is president and rescue coordinator of the local American Eskimo club.
And Guy Knepp, the owner of a pet-grooming salon in Burien and a member of a Chow rescue group for 15 years, would be the community education and public relations specialist, and would back up Snyder as a field officer.
George told the council they would seek grants and sponsor fundraisers for additional revenue for their animal control work.
For now, sheltering will be contracted with P.J.’s Pet Ranch in SeaTac not far from the Burien city limits and with local veterinary clinics.
Councilman Gerald Robison, whose primary concern is the amount of liability insurance required of the contractor, added that he hopes “the city will go forward with the idea of setting up a broader animal control scheme with other cities.”
Martin replied that “we’re in active discussion with the cities,” which could include SeaTac, Tukwila and Normandy Park.
“There is great power in community-based organizations,” Martin told council members. “This will put $120,000 back into the community, not into government.”
An analysis by city staff shows the Des Moines’ animal control officer costs $121,000 a year – and would cost Burien another $50,000-$70,000 in one-time start-up costs – compared to $120,000 annually for the Burien animal control contract.
In addition, the CARES proposal provides for sheltering, adoption and community education, while none of these services are part of animal control in Des Moines.
Burien will continue to collect pet licensing fees.
In April 2010, the Burien City Council opted not to participate in the new King County regional program and awarded the first local first animal control services contract to Dr. Leslie Kasper effective July 1.
But in January, Kasper gave the city a six-month notice that she will no longer provide these services.
“Dr. Kasper did a lot of things well, but had difficulty building essential community partnerships,” Martin noted. Now this partnership group has stepped up to provide animal control services that will “meet professional standards.”
Prior to the council discussion, Burien management analyst Jenn Ramirez Robson detailed the first six months of local animal control services under Kasper, noting that more calls were responded to and more dogs and cats were taken in than by King County in 2009.