LETTER: Former Burien Mayor: ‘No Animal Control and No Caring Either!’

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Several days ago I called the Animal Control number for the City of Burien about a stray cat, with no collar, that has been living in our neighborhood for weeks. It was thin and devouring birds for food. I checked with all neighbors and no one claimed the cat so I called the animal control number to inquire about what I could do about it. After a day, they returned my call and said someone would contact me and bring me a cage to catch the cat. Several days later, Ray Helms, the new animal control person, did call and delivered me a cage and told me when I got the cat, call and someone would pick it up. He showed me how to work the cage.

Monday, April 2nd, I finally caught the cat in the cage. I ran into the house and called Animal Control. No answer, as always, but voice mail only. They are closed on Mondays and of course on Saturdays and Sundays too. I now have a frantic cat, meowing and howling and scratching the cage to get out. I felt it was inhumane to keep it in a cage until the next day. I would be happy to deliver it to a facility so it could be cared for, but where??? I could not feed the cat or give it water because it would escape. This was urgent. I called City Hall, explaining my concerns. They said to call Debra George and they would provide me the number. While I waited for the call, I went out to move the cage and the cat had escaped. The cage spring lock failed and the cat got out.

Ray called and said that was the only cage they had and he would come and pick it up. He hoped he could repair it. He wondered about getting a new one. He said he would let me know.

Three days and no service. The only answer from the animal control voice mail is………”If this is an emergency, call 911.” Clearly this was not an emergency. Clearly however, it was a case where service was necessary and important. Neither were available. Treating animals humanely should be part of the mission of the Cares organization. Quite often being responsive and available is urgently important to achieve that goal.

Two members of the Burien City Council have requested that the Animal Control policies be reviewed and updates about money expended be fully reported to the City Council. To date, the rest of the council members have not voted to support a discussion. According to the city manager, the Cares organization is fine. All is well.

Stand by for the next installment…

-Sally A. Nelson

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24 Responses to “LETTER: Former Burien Mayor: ‘No Animal Control and No Caring Either!’”
  1. Betsy says:

    Sally, you have much more experience then we do on how to pressure the City of Burien to address these issues. Please tell us what you would recommend.

  2. Laura Stiles says:

    Sally, I am confused by your post. CARES is open Tuesday thru Saturday, and on call for emergencies on Sunday and Monday. You acknowledged that your situation was not an emergency. Perhaps you could have thought ahead a bit and not placed the trap out on a day that CARES is closed, instead putting out food and water for it since you were so concerned about it being hungry. Perhaps you could have placed food and water in the cage before you set it out so that you wouldn’t need to reopen the door. Perhaps food could be given through the bars of the cage. Perhaps you could just settle down and realize that the response provided was appropriate to the situation.

  3. Eaton B. Verz says:

    CARES is the biggest scam ever to hit the city!! Ms. George laughs all the way to the bank every month with Mike martin Saying” Move along … Nothing to see here. Meanwhile the animals suffer. BTW what happened to the facility that was to open in January? Another broken promise in a long string of broken promises. Shame on the council and Mike Martin. We’ve been down this road many times and it seems all we can do is vote the bums out!

    • TcB says:

      Funny but I have a feeling that every single year and for every single politician you say “vote the bums out”.

    • Laura Stiles says:

      Eaton, sorry to tap you on the shoulder with the facts, but I hate to see you embarrassing yourself further. CARES is a non-profit organization with only two paid staff: the animal control officer and the office coordinator. Ms. George and the other board members are unpaid volunteers, as with any non-profit. CARES operates on a shoestring budget, less than half of what was formerly paid to King County to provide a lower level of service. CARES stepped in to provide services to Burien when the original contract holder bailed out on it (there’s your broken promise). To call it some sort of money machine is simply ignorant and beyond ridiculous. If your level of concern is really so great, please do rush down to the shelter, located at 909 SW 151st Street and offer to help. All shelters depend heavily upon community volunteers. Yes, the shelter has been getting up to speed over the last few months, but apparently you missed that piece of factual information also. In the future, I invite you to investigate the facts and become part of the solution rather than wasting your time (and ours) with dramatic rants and personal attacks.

      • Eaton B. Verz says:

        Laura, Just FYI I have volunteered MANY hours at a local shelter, so I feel I know what a proper one looks like and how it should operate. I personally have tried to get ahold of someone at cares( YES, during business hours) to no avail. They don’t even have the courtesy to return phone calls. There are many people who have the same or other complaints about the service(or lack of it) given by CARES. I have now reached a stage in life where I am real picky about my time that I am willing to give away for free. I also never say never. Convince me I am wrong!! What days/times are you there volunteering and I will arrange to meet you there to tour the facility and have you show me the error of my ways. You never know, we might be working together on this. One burning question I have always had……Why would an intellegent person/ succesful business person like Ms. George take on a project that had proven itself underfunded. Also, why all the secrecy? I would be more inclined to make a cash donation if I was sure the money that we pay CARES is being used wisely and efficiently…….BTW, I wonder why the original people who started CARES with MS. George resigned amid some startling allegations. If they are/were false why not address them and move forward positively. So many questions! I really look forward to getting the facts from you.
        Regards, Eaton

        • Ray Helms says:

          Mr. Verz, I am one of two paid employees for CARES. I apologize if you feel that you were not adequately responded to in your past attempts to contact our office. I or my co-worker tries to respond to every call that we receive within 24 hours depending on the level of severity, which I decide. Our normal hours of operation are Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 6pm. I would completely welcome any assistance helping to get our shelter on line. We are so close to bringing our furry friends to the facility. Of course playing with the kitties and running with the dogs are not what we need at this time since almost all of our animals are housed off site at local foster families or pet resorts; which in deed we are paying. But we could use some good old fashion elbow grease, hammering and framing, dry wall work, concrete work, plumbing, painting. We are a 501 c organization and with proper ID we can even assist with those of you who need community service hours. So give me a call; Ray Helms, at, 206-812-2737 and lets show that we don’t need a million dollars of tax payers money to build a shelter in our town, just some honest work from honest citizens.
          Thanks in advance, Ray

  4. Tricia says:

    A resource I recommend to those dealing with feral or stray cats:

    Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project

    4001 198th St SW Ste#3
    Lynnwood, WA 98036-6731

    Phone: 425-673-CATS (2287)
    Email: [email protected]

  5. Ray Helms says:

    All is well. I have caught the cat and returned it to its owner. Thank you everyone for your concern. 🙂

  6. Nikki says:

    I agree with the comment about the OP needing to be better prepared when she sets a trap for an animal. There is quite a lot of drama in the letter also. I’m don’t think I want to stand by for another installment. Maybe this was about being a former mayor and thinking she’d automatically get the red carpet treatment.

    CARES hasn’t shown they can even provide adequate treatment to the animals and the community of Burien. There is zero accountability for them.

    What is the city manager, Mike Martin, doing to address the problems? Nothing!

    Sadly with all the feedback from the community and problems with CARE it will probably take a terrible incident before there are any improvements. We need some big publicity to get public attention to what is going on with CARES and the City of Burien.

    • Eizabeth says:

      My goodness, Laura and Nikki, you seem very critical of someone just trying to be responsible for a cat that isn’t even hers. Perhaps she doesn’t have the experience dealing with these things that you do. I don’t think I would have thought to check the hours of operation before setting up the trap and might have not thought ahead enough to realize I couldn’t put food in afterwards. (Not to mention it is a little difficult to “schedule” the trapping of a stray cat!) Please give a break to someone just trying to do the right thing.

      • Laura Stiles says:

        Elizabeth: It is Sally who was being critical – I was responding that a little common sense might have resolved the problem, rather than ranting and blaming. CARES is also trying to do the right thing, maybe you good citizens should give THEM a break.

    • ws says:

      Why didn’t CARES give Ms. Nelson instruction on when and how to put out the trap?

    • ws says:

      The City has an obligation to provide adequate animal services and clearly they aren’t. We need to contact the people we voted for and demand that the City remedies this immediately.

  7. skeptical says:

    CARES needs closer examination, but not because Nelson said so. In an earlier interview, she said:

    “They came over and apologized to me this weekend, and told me the pit bull was a rescue dog. I said “a pit bull that’s a rescue dog should be put down.””

    After such an uncaring, ignorant statement, why would anyone pay attention to anything else she said?

  8. Daniel Bone says:

    I love all the comments every time an animal story comes up. Rescuing animals makes us warm and fuzzy so let’s spend whatever it takes to make sure our animals get the “Cadillac” treatment. I love animals as much as the next guy but I am tired of seeing my taxes go up and up to fund “Cadillac” programs. The Burien City Council has a good idea going in house for animal control. Their in house program is more than what the state requires. Councilman Lucy Krakowiak would love to go back using King County Animal Control. At $300,000 per year for a part time service, I think that is a little high. Of course the same Lucy who voted to keep the King County Animal Control voted the same week to cut social services to human beings. In my book, humans trump animals any day. Ray Helms is trying to get the program up and running and he is doing a good job. Maybe instead of all the criticism, you should call Ray and ask if you could help him get the facility built and while you are at it, dig deep into the rich pockets you must have (since you are willing to spend $300,000.00) per year and make a sizable donation.
    Until you volunteer to help or at least find out facts about the program, why not stop all the negative comments.

  9. kitty lover says:

    I too am saddened by the Animal Control situation in Burien. We need a facility that is open, and on closed days, at least offers phone assistance when concerns arise. We need a facility that will take stray, lost and unwanted animals, and care for them. No one said this would be easy, but the City says they can do it, so they to do what is necessary to get it done. I have heard from numerous people who have called for assistance, and are understandably upset by a situation with a found animal, lost animal, whatever, and are met with voicemail and no assistance or advise as to where to take said animal for care, or any helpful information. Maybe the schools, or the scouts, boys and girls could volunteer some care for said facility, if we really have one. I’m sure exercising, or socializing, along with cleaning and feeding takes lots of volunteers…but lets start with some leadership and a real plan.

  10. PatHToLogic says:

    My wife wished to become available as a volunteer last fall and was encouraged to present an application which she did,
    To this date she has not heard back from this organization and has since decided she would not have wished to be involved with the confusion, poor service and lack of response that later ensued.
    “A volunteer is a terrible thing to waste.”

  11. Luckyboy says:

    We found a stray female dog running around the other day in Burien. She was emaciated and looked as if she had been on the streets for a long time. After hearing about and reading about all the problems with Burien Animal Control we decided to look at other options for rescuing this sweet dog. She is now safe and sound… we hope to foster her upon her recovery…

    • ws says:

      Thank you, Luckyboy, for finding adequate care for the dog. I hope she does get to be your foster.

      Time to get the City to do their job and provide adequate animal services.

  12. Feralcat says:

    ‘cares’ is supposed to a presentation on june 18 at the council meeting please everyone who is worried, show up. tell your stories.


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