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Non-Profit Headed By Debra George Will Take Over Burien Animal Control

by Ralph Nichols [1]

The newly formed Community Animal Resource Education Society (CARES), headed by Debra George, will take control of Burien animal care and control services beginning June 15.

City council members gave CARES a green light Monday night (April 11) by taking no action after all but two of them voiced support for the private non-profit group’s proposal.

CARES will be paid $10,000 a month under its contract with the city – a total of $360,000 through April 2014.

George co-owns The MARK Restaurant, manages the Burien Farmers Market and coordinates special events for Discover Burien [2]. She is also a former executive director of the downtown organization.

In addition to George, CARES includes:

The group will be responsible for enforcing animal control laws, picking up stray, injured and dangerous animals, and sheltering and adopting unclaimed dogs and cats. In addition, it will provide for sheltering, adoption and community education.

For now, sheltering will be contracted with P.J.’s Pet Ranch, not far from the Burien city limits in SeaTac, and with local veterinary clinics.

During the council discussion of whether to award the contract to CARES, Councilman Jack Block Jr. repeated his “concerns with the qualifications of the one bidder we have.”

Block again encouraged his fellow lawmakers to bring animal control and enforcement in-house through the Burien Police Department.

And Councilwoman Lucy Krakowiak continued her dissent, saying it was “unfortunate” they didn’t have before them for comparison information on “what services [the city] used to have” from King County.

This despite the fact that the King County animal control program that served Burien through last June 30 no longer exists.

But, said Councilman Gerald Robison, “I like the idea of contracting and non-profit … it is more responsive to what the community needs.”

In addition, CARES will provide a 24/7 response, compared to Des Moines where, “when the animal control officer is off duty, then police shoot dogs. We don’t want that in Burien.”

The city will continue to sell licenses and collect pet licensing fees, which will help pay for this program.

Although the CARES proposal isn’t ideal, “it is the best alternative we have at the moment,” added Councilman Gordon Shaw.

The city’s only other option, Shaw said, is “to relinquish all animal control functions and go to what we are legally obligated to provide” – responding to vicious and injured animals and reports of animal abuse.

“We had a good business model for what we tried to do” to replace the King County animal control program. “It didn’t work for whatever reason … I do not see after this short-term experiment that it’s time to swap programs.”

Shaw also noted that “people in this community want efficiency in government … “the proposal in front of us at this time seems to be the proposal” to try to do that.”

“The $120,000 [annual] contract gives us the minimum service we need and puts the burden for shelter, adoption and no-kill [of impounded animals] on CARES,” said Mayor Joan McGilton. “I’m very much for this contract.”

She added that CARES’s performance will be reviewed in six months, and that the group is required to submit monthly status reports.

With that, five of the council members nodded to City Manager Mike Martin to execute the contract, as provided by an earlier council action.

In April 2010, the Burien City Council opted not to participate in a new King County regional program and awarded the first local first animal control services contract to Dr. Leslie Kasper effective July 1.

The new county program would have cost Burien about $300,000 a year, while giving the city the services of a single animal control officer for just eight hours a week.

In January, Kasper gave the city a six-month notice that she will no longer provide these services.

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