An Exit Interview With Dr. Leslie Kasper, Ex-Director Of Burien Animal Control


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by Scott Schaefer

Dr. Leslie Kasper served as the first Director of the new Burien Animal Care & Control (BACC), which was created in 2010 after the city declined to renew its $250,000 contract with King County’s Animal Control program.

Instead, Burien developed its own program, which involved contracting out animal field and sheltering services and bringing licensing services in-house at a cost of $120,000 a year. Kasper, a local veterinarian, was hired as Director. Her original contract was set to expire Wednesday, July 27, 2011, but she abruptly “resigned” on Jan. 27, 2011 (download a PDF of her resignation letter here).

Many of our Readers have questioned why an experienced Vet would suddenly “resign” from an important new job some six months after it started. Kasper told us that she not only had problems “getting things done” with the city, but that she was restricted by a budget that couldn’t meet the growing demands of the new program.

“There were many promises that were told to me which never happened,” Kasper told us. “I was told from day one they would be there to support me and this program … annual numbers were exceeded in just a couple months blowing our ‘budget’ out of the water. The program was upside down for nearly six months to the point where I did not take any income.”

Kasper also claims that she was told she’d “save a lot of money if I just euthanized animals after three days as the City would not pay for services after that.”

“As a veterinarian, it was against my ethics to kill animals for convenience and (I) explained that was not an option,” she added. “I was told that was my problem.”

Currently, the city’s animal control is managed by the non-profit Burien CARES group, which is paid $10,000 per month and is managed by Debra George. This group has struggled a bit out of the gate, and, far as we know, does not yet have a shelter for found animals.

As we’ve previously reported:

When King County pulled out of animal control services last year, Burien opted out of a new regional cooperative program.

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

Instead, Burien developed its own program, which involved contracting out animal field and sheltering services and bringing licensing services in-house at a cost of $120,000 a year.

Kasper, who at that time owned Companion Animal Medical Center in Normandy Park, became director of Burien Animal Care and Control on July 1, 2010.

However, the economic downturn combined with delays in rebuilding 1st Ave. S. through Normandy Park combined to force the closure of her veterinary clinic later last year.

Primary services for Burien Animal Care and Control are expected to remain the same: 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.

Here’s our full interview with Dr. Kasper:

Q: Please tell us how your experience was as Director of Burien’s first Animal Control Program.
A: I really enjoyed developing and directing the BACC program. Overall the experience was very positive from the community. Being a veterinarian I of course am constantly striving to better the lives of our pet population and this position allowed me to help hundreds more animals then I ever would have in a clinic situation.

Q: Was it easy?
A: Oh this was not easy! Developing a new program – discovering all the in’s and out’s and ironing wrinkles often after the fact came with the territory.  There are many people in the community who were opposed to the City going its own way versus paying the County. There were several people in City Hall who refused to provide any services other than the bare minimum by state law. But, the majority of the community embraced what we were trying to do, and were very happy to see our program. That made the hard work worth it most days!

Q: Why did you resign? What happened?
A: There were many promises that were told to me which never happened. I was told from day one they would be there to support me and this program. I was told they would develop a non-profit auxiliary to assist us in pursuing funding and programs which were not allowed due to my “independent contractor” status. We based the program and its funding on the information provided to us by the County reports from previous years. It turns out once we had a local program, those annual numbers were exceeded in just a couple months blowing our “budget” out of the water. The program was upside down for nearly six months to the point where I did not take any income from the budget. When it was available, I took the scraps, usually less then $1,500 a month for the duties of full time shelter operator, 24-7 on-call animal control officer, and adoption programs!

When I brought these concerns to the City, I was told we would review at six months as contracted. I was told I could save a lot of money if I just euthanized animals after three days as the City would not pay for services after that. As a veterinarian, it was against my ethics to kill animals for convenience and explained that was not an option. I was told that was my problem. So I waited for my review. Nearly three weeks after my contracted review deadline I was contacted by a City official who told me there would be no negotiations or changes in the budget. I explained that it would be impossible to continue this program at the current budget and if they wouldn’t hold up to their end of the bargain then what were my options? I had none. I was told if I gave them three months for a transition that would be good. I started the process to find new employment and encouraged the City to move quickly as the State Animal Control Officer Academy was arriving quickly and a perfect training opportunity. Two weeks later, I was informed the transition would be six months as contracted and a letter of resignation was required, making the whole experience drag out that much longer. I hoped the letter would encourage the City to re-evaluate the budget, but it seems it was easier for them to find a new contractor instead.

Q: You actually closed your Vet Clinic at one point – why?
A: Oh, I wish I could have continued that to this day.  That was a separate issue from BACC.  Despite our continued growth and financial obligations, Bank of America, who held my business loan, decided they were “no longer interested in our continued relationship” and sold the practice out from under me!  They refused to negotiate any terms or allowing another company to refinance the loan. So much for supporting Small Businesses! It was an extremely sad situation.

Q: Do you think a city like Burien can manage its own animal control?
A: Yes! Across the state and country small municipal programs flourish.  I think the biggest problem with the program as it currently sits is that the budget does not allow for a shelter and ACO salary. The City will always aim for the minimum costs and so the “3-day and out” program.  The community needs to decide if that is what they want. If they want a shelter and adoption program then they need to rally for it. If all we want is a simple pick-up person then that’s all Burien will ever have.

Q: Did you ever have problems working with the city?
A: Yes. There are too many examples to list. I touched on several above, but the City was good at promising, but most were not in writing so they never felt the need to follow through. There were several occasions where it was alluded by our City Manager that I was taking up too much of his time and even told once to “stop being a child and grow up.”

Q: Do you have any thoughts on ‘CARES,’ the new Animal Control group?
A: As a citizen of this community, like so many others, am very concerned as to the reality of the situation compared to the statements made for their intentions.  Where is the shelter? Where are the animals?  As the former “single woman show” I reached out to several of the local and state rescue groups and was told they were too full to assist in placing animal from us.  A few of my former volunteers have told me they have tried to contact CARES about animals simply to be told there weren’t any.  That is shocking to me as we always had animals coming in or on stray-hold.  I realize they are not contractually obligated to have an adoption program, but I would like to see their monthly reports on where all the animals are going.

Q: Do you have any advice for the City of Burien about Animal Control?
A: I hope this program works.  The community deserves it.  The animals deserve it.  I do think the community is better served locally then through the County as we can focus our resources.  I am concerned with the continued talks of annexation when it comes to animal control though.  We currently have the same budget for animal services as Des Moines – a community only 2/3 our size with a full time accredited ACO/police officer.   Not only do we have 15,000 more citizens but we have twice the number of animal impounds annually.  Now they are discussing adding even more to that obligation!

Q: What are you doing now?
A: I have returned to private veterinary practice.  I am leasing a new practice in Mountlake Terrace – Whiskers & Wags Veterinary Hospital. Starting over is never easy but I know the hard work is worth it. It’s a bit of a drive, but I encourage any of my previous veterinary or adoption clients to come and visit any time!

Q: Tell us some of the more interesting anecdotes about animal control in Burien – any unusual stories?
A: Well my favorite was Donatello!  I received a call from a frantic driver about a giant turtle in the road. She was worried sick that it would be run over.  I rushed right out to help only to find a huge 60lb tortoise on a walk-about!  He had wandered out of his back yard in search of adventure when his owners were out to the store!  Luckily they came home and helped me lure him back in with strawberries!

Then there was Olive. She was a very sweet cat someone had dropped off as a stray to the shelter in July 2010.  Although she was a great cat, she was a simple tabby and nothing fancy. She stayed with us for over seven months finally being adopted earlier this year!  I had the pleasure of seeing her recently when her owner went out of town. He was so appreciative of our patience with her stay at the shelter since he felt she was the most perfect addition to their family!

And finally, Roscoe, a rat terrier who was reunited with his family from Oklahoma nearly a year after he was lost when they saw him listed on PetFinder.com with us for adoption. He was a special little dog who somehow knew his owners were coming for him even before they did!??

Q: Anything else you’d like to share with our Readers?
A: Thank you Burien citizens for allowing me to provide a much needed service to our community. I enjoyed my time with you.

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Comments

23 Responses to “An Exit Interview With Dr. Leslie Kasper, Ex-Director Of Burien Animal Control”
  1. viola williford says:

    I am appauled with how Burien views animals. I agree 110% on seeing reports on what they are doing with the animals. I hate to think that my dog would be murdered because somehow she got out and I couldn’t find her for 3 days. A comunities character can be judged by how they treat their animals. We need to have more resources, love, and understanding for our animals. We really need to stay AWAY from using King County’s Animal Control. It sickens me to have to hear stories from DesMoines of gentle, scared, lost dogs being gunned down by cops because their single Animal Control Officer had the day off(Justice for Rosie). I dont want to hear more of these stories happening in my city. Burien is suposed to be a beautiful and safe place for us to live in, but to know that our animals will be put down or neglected so that Burien can save money just makes it another ugly city that I dont want to be a part of.

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  2. Btowner says:

    So nice of Dr. Kasper to share her views and give so much of herself to our animals. A valor attempt but sadly to no avail. I”m curious why Cares has not made an attempt to communicate with Buriens citizens on the program. Communication from CARES seems to be scarce. When will CARES let us know their plans and give us reports, as to how things are running. If my dog is lost…will it be euthanized after 3 days? Where do I call and more importantly…where are they housing our lost animals? What are the qualifications? Do we even have a vet involved? Where are the facilities and offices? I applaud Dr. Kasper for standing her ground, communicating with the citizens, and not operating the way OUR city wanted her to operate. Could CARES , with its close ties to the city… be more likely to play the way the city wants?

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  3. Eaton B. Verz says:

    “. Could CARES , with its close ties to the city… be more likely to play the way the city wants?”

    Free lunch at” The Mark” for city employees!!!

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  4. Rob says:

    I am curious why this topic was not brought up at the Candidates forum, and I totally agree with Ms. Willford on this. Were do our current and future council candidates stand on this issue? And why hasn’t CARES been a little more public about their plans? All I have seen CARES do is sell home made dog treats at the Farmers’ Market. As a pet owner, I would like some answers!

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    • skeptical says:

      All of the candidates think Mike Martin is wonderful, even though he wants to kill all of our pets if they stay at the pound more than three days. There is nothing to choose from in this bunch of candidates. Might as well vote for one as the other. Nothing will change.

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    • feralcat says:

      Damn stopped calling me failed cat. I am NOT failed I do a hell of alot more then any of supporters of the stupic CARES. Buying dog treat woohoo. give me a break. That is NO way will help CARES in their “mission”. Euthanize is an necessary for distemper/parvo and an injured animal that of course DOES NOT have the money to support what is is “suppose” to. I am stating fact. You can find these fact at the library. You must have quite a relationship with Debra George. when she is NOT willing to address peoples questions on how the “shelter: is run that says alot. SO Miss DogHater. think about what the city of burien said to SAVE MONEY KILL THE ANIMALS AFTER 3 DAYS. it actually states that int the contract. So at LEAST i have my facts straight you do NOT. Spay and neuter well I guess so when taking them to other vets to do it. Sure. but imagine a shelter that already exsists in kent and has everything that this city needs. Not this fluffy crap and that is all it I is.

      In NO way is this organization working when the burien police have to call KCAC for help because cares is NOT available wow what the hell does that tell ya. THEY ARE USELESS.

      So get your facts straight. Let see what there report will be. I do NO FOR A FACT that the humane society and seattle animal control are taking cares cats and kittens. so again people get your facts straight..

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      • Burienite says:

        @”Feralcat”: I appreciate your post, and you make some good points, however your postings would be received a whole lot better if you take the time to re-read your post before you submit it. Sometimes it’s hard to follow along with your points when they’re part of a huge run-on sentence.

        All I’m saying is take the time to think about what you want to write, then carefully put fingers to keyboard. Proof read it a couple of times, revise, then send it in.

        Call me a grammer snob….that’s ok!

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  5. feralcat says:

    Everyone needs to go this Monday August 1 Burien City council meeting and tell them that CARES is NOT and can NOT work. Killing animals is NOT the answer. Oh and by the way they CAN NOT euthanize anyways as they don’t even have the permits to do that. So what is the public to do. HMMMM

    Feralcat

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  6. Me says:

    So, after this was posted, CARES put 2 dogs up for adoption on craigslist. Really, 2?? Where are all the others? I know there have been more than 2 animals taken to them.

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  7. Me says:

    http://seattle.craigslist.org/skc/pet/2498161893.html

    This is the only one left, the other was a black and white pit bull.

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  8. Marianne says:

    I find it appalling and embarrassing that a city agency would advertise on Craiglist.

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    • SadDogLover says:

      Back alley pictures posted on Craigslist. Put that drink down Mr Martin and stand up to accept the biggest looser in Burien award for the month. I love the “vague” descriptions on the listings (fluffy tail). I think my 9 year old could have done a better job. Shame on Burien.

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  9. Erik Robbins says:

    I believe I have seen “Lost Dog” posters around town describing the black dog that is posted. I would hope CARES sees these posters and follows up. People really need to be informed of where to go if an animal is lost and found in our town.

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  10. Barbara says:

    Mr. Robbins – I know it is not your job, but why not help out and contact the folks who put up the “Lost Dog” posters that you refer to, and let them know that their dog may be at CARES and posted on craigslist. That would take no more time to do than you spent posting on this blog.

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  11. doglover says:

    Cares has returned a number of dogs to thier homes, Why they dont have alot !! The fact that they don’t have a licence to euthanize animals is a good thing !! Failedcat !! this way they have to find homes for the puppys !! I met a person who addopted a dog from CARES they are so happy with thier new dog !! I have been to the market and bought DOG TREATS from CARES, my dog loved them !! Beside they use the money to spay and neuture the animals.. and what ever else is needed,, So stop picking on an organization who has actually starting to make a differance.. Try stoping by and buying a bag of treats or making a donation to help our animals !!!!!

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  12. Marianne says:

    Doghumper- I would hope that CARES has returned at least a few dogs to their homes for $10,000 a month. Still can’t figure out what they have done for the cats of Burien. How dare you suggest Feralcat buy biscuits to help the animals of Burien when she spends hundreds of dollars of her own money each month on food, litter, vet care, water, electricity, shelter, and gas to help local animals.

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  13. doglover says:

    Dearest Failed Cat,
    I say this because of your BAD attitude; you fail to get that this group is trying to make a difference AND you think you’re the only one who rescues animals (cats) in Burien!! Let me tell you have rescued many dogs throughout the state of Washington for many years. So why not stop picking on an organization that has stepped up to help the animals of Burien. AND NO I don’t have a relationship with Debra George; I did meet her once at her restaurant, when she asked my wife and me how we liked our dinning experience. Buying treats at the Market to support the group is a small way to help, but you should know that every little bit does help! You’re just mad because the group at CARES probably doesn’t want to work with someone who is ALL about themselves. You need to get your facts strait! I guess it would be better to have nothing? King County is not the answer for our animal problem, charging our city 3 fold what this group is being paid for LESS service is not the answer. I say we support this group, they are local, and they live in our city and what better way to support our city, from within!
    Kind Regards
    Dog lover

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  14. doglover says:

    Dearest Marriane,
    OK maybe buying dogs biscuits isn’t the answer, but it helps, and Failed Cat does get donations from many, I know, I have but money in her donation box in the past that was at a pet store. Maybe you should donate to CARES? I will make a 100 dollar donation today at the Market ! I will go up to the Officer that is there and identify myself, and hand him a 100 dollar donation to help. I just won’t buy a bag a biscuits. So my challenge to ALL of Burien, stop by and donate something to help our animals.AND yes we can make a difference.
    Kind Regards
    Dog lover

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  15. Marianne says:

    Unfortunately cash is in short supply around here, but I do currently have seven Burien kittens in my care that I trapped. I feed, provide medical care, toys , and have had them spayed and neutered. CARES has no shelter and does not currently adopt out cats so I will adopt them out myself. I also spayed the mother of one litter and found her a home. I trapped and spayed or neutered 16 adults at the other site and found homes for an additional five kittens. One kitten was dying and II had her euthanized. Another Burien site I trapped at recently had a dozen cats. About half are now fixed. I am working on trapping the rest with feralcat. $100 doesn’t go far in situations like these. CARES could probably also use your volunteer help. I do appreciate your challenge to the citizens of Burien to do something to help: a donation, their time, spay and neuter their pets and the ferals around them…

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  16. feralcat says:

    Bad attitude no I am just pissed that the public’s money is going to NOTHING. CARES has NO shelter to speak of. They can/do not take any cats or small animals. That is NOT a shelter.

    WooWoo $100.00 that won’t do crap. It will take a minimum of $250,000.00 to even come up with anything that resembles a shelter, ie cages, a vet on staff, dog runs, isolation rooms. Medicines ect. So Debra said that she is sending out letters to all of the local vets that if some one brings in an animal with a need of medical care that CARES will pay for that. Vets very well could take advantage of this.

    Even Debra herself admits that she is NOT seasoned in cats. WELL DUH.

    Just helped a lady with over 15 cats. I am getting them fixed and helping the lady with medical issues related to her cats. Yet CARES can’t even do that. Again what is our $10,000.00 per month going to?

    I guess the city and CARES has NO guidelines for people who are hoarders are freaking kidding me? So while the city and CARES are trying to get some guidelines together more puppies and kittens are being born and yet there is NO place for them to go, because CARES has NO shelter.

    The office is a hole in a wall down a dead end alley with 3 dog carriers.

    As you donating money to ‘my” can WRONG. I have no cans any where. So you are WRONG. I have devoted my house and life and garage to TNR of feral cats. I do 1500 feral/friendly cat and kittens a year. A few dogs thrown in there.

    Doglover wow what a compassionate person you must be, not giving a rats ass that the city wants to kill animals after 3 days to save money. KCAC euthanasia is less than 20%. CARES well I guess if they aren’t taking in animal they are killing anything. Something is very fishy here. I will be finding that info out next week as it is public record.

    If any of you supporters of CARES actually read the contract that the city of Burien has with CARES, right there in black and white most of the requirements are NOT met. I at least educate myself.

    FCAT

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