LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘Why Animal Control Matters to Everyone’

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Being a dog owner and having friendships with numerous people who do animal rescue work, I am very aware of the importance of animal control. However, I understand that the average person who owns (and loves) cats or dogs does not generally think about animal control until they need help — IMMEDIATE HELP. There are also many people who don’t own or even like animals and they assume that animal control is nothing they need to be concerned about. I would like to explain why animal control is a vital issue to everyone who owns, loves, or wants nothing to do with animals.

The first thing everyone thinks of when they hear the words “animal control” is a uniformed officer capturing lost animals and returning them to distraught owners. One of my friends is an officer with Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC) and he says that is his favorite part of his job — seeing people’s faces light up at the sight of their lost pet returning home. Needless to say, this is GIGANTIC to people who own animals. It always makes an uplifting story for those who love animals. For those who don’t own or don’t like animals — it is very important to you, too. There are many reasons why animals become separated from their owners and end up lost. It happens every day in every neighborhood. If there is no animal control officer taking them home, they remain lost — and desperate — on the streets. The first thing a lost dog does is try to find his owners. In the course of doing that, he may run into the street. The average person will swerve to avoid hitting any animal. It’s a reflex and often results in a wreck because the driver doesn’t have time to look for other cars or (God forbid) a pedestrian nearby. Loose animals are a traffic hazard.

If the dog or cat survives the dangers of traffic, sooner or later they become hungry. What is the easiest source of food? Garbage cans. A cat’s dumpster diving may never be noticed, but a large dog can make a large mess with the contents of a garbage can. If someone leaves food for their own pet outside, a stray animal might fight the resident animal for the contents of that food dish. I have personally taken a cat to the vet after a blow-out cat fight. I can tell you — it’s not cheap. Not to mention the fact that, your beloved pet is INJURED. Even if the injury is just one little bite, if your cat is bitten by a cat with feline leukemia, your cat will very likely end up with that disease. I haven’t had a cat in many years, but back when I did, feline leukemia was terminal. As far as I know, it still is. Stray animals cause health hazards to humans and other animals.

Stray animals are a huge danger to children. Think of your adorable toddler or grandchild squealing, “Kitty!” and reaching delightedly for some fuzzy creature. Children don’t THINK before they reach for an appealing animal. If that animal is a starving, terrified stray, the consequences may be terrible. No matter how sweet an animal is in its own home, when it is lost in an unfamiliar place without food or comfort, it becomes desperate and crazy. I’m sure many of you just thought of the lady, right here in Burien, who got out of her car in her own driveway one night and was suddenly attacked by a dog that had been running loose in her neighborhood for weeks. Her injuries were horrific. Stray animals are dangerous.

Perhaps you are VERY careful to keep your dogs or cats safe. I know I am. We have leashes and we USE them. But what if you are at a local park and a couple of kids show up with a large dog that is not only not on a leash, but growling and snapping at children in the play area? I take very good care of my dogs — but not everyone does. What if you hear your next door neighbor brutally beating a dog that is frantically screaming? What if there is a dog tied up in the yard next door that is growing thinner and thinner and you have never seen any sort of food dish out there? You may clearly see a disaster about to happen with that loose dog in the park or you may feel for the animal being starved next door, but it is usually unwise (and generally unproductive) for you to try to do something about it. There are laws against that kind of stuff and there is an agency to enforce them. For more than 30 years, RASKC (formerly King County Animal Care and Control) has upheld animal law for Burien and the rest of King County. When animals are being abused or an animal is creating a dangerous situation, RASKC does something about it. Unfortunately, Burien no longer has a contract with RASKC, so they cannot help you if you live in Burien.

In John and Linda Poitras’s letter to The B-Town Blog on May 3rd of this year (read it here), they addressed the issue of the cost of contracting with RASKC. So, I will not duplicate their information here. What I will address is what it is going to cost Burien if we DO NOT contract with RASKC, and very soon. In numerous letters to The B-Town Blog and in the comments following those letters, local residents have observed that Burien’s “do-it-yourself” animal control effort, CARES, has been unable to meet Burien’s animal control needs — or even the terms of their contract with the city of Burien. Remember my friend who is an RASKC animal control officer? The other day I mentioned Burien’s situation to him. “Oh,” he said, “I know. We get TONS of calls from people in Burien begging us to please help them. It makes you feel so bad. But all we can do is tell them, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have a contract with Burien, so it is out of our jurisdiction.’ We give them the phone number for CARES.”

Clearly, we have little or no animal control in Burien. There are people who would be very pleased to hear that. Cock fighting and dog fighting are wicked activities. Most people think instantly of how horrible it is for the animals involved. True. However, think of this — a dog fight is not just two guys siccing their dogs on each other. A dog or cock fight is an event. LOTS of people show up to bet on the animals fighting. What kind of people enjoy watching animals suffering and bleeding? Generally the same kind of people who join gangs to feel important, sell drugs to get rich quick, and settle a personality conflict by blowing the other guy away (without regard to where the stray bullets might be going). IF Burien continues to be the Wild West as far as enforcement of animal law is concerned, we are just ASKING for dog fighting, cock fighting, and all the criminal element that goes with it to come and be at home in Burien. I don’t need to tell you what that would cost Burien in law enforcement, property loss, etc. — not to mention the danger. I’m sure that, whether you own animals or not, this MATTERS to you.

In all the aspects mentioned above, it is clear that IMMEDIATE response is a vital element. CARES’s contract with the city calls for 24/7 service. With TWO people?! It is ridiculous to imagine that a couple of people with the absolute minimum of animal control training and experience can possibly keep up with all the calls for animal control assistance in a city the size of Burien. Many people have commented on how they have called and called CARES and received no response. If you have to go to work and there is a large dog you have never seen before hanging around your door, growling when you try to leave your house, “Thank you for calling….” doesn’t cut it. To have effective animal control, you need a genuine animal control agency like RASKC with numerous officers, a shelter staff, office personnel, a reliable record keeping system, at least one veterinary (RASKC has two), a volunteer coordinator to get the mundane tasks done, and a good working relationship with the King County Sheriff’s deputies.

In conclusion, please let me take this opportunity to inform you of the Burien city council meeting MONDAY night, JUNE 18th at 7:00 pm at the BURIEN LIBRARY MEETING ROOM. The council will be discussing Burien’s current animal control situation. If this matters to you, please, please make time to attend that meeting! You do not need to speak publicly. If the room is simply packed with people who are concerned about this situation, it WILL have an impact on the outcome. If you see this letter too late to attend the meeting, please set down your thoughts in an e-mail and send it to the Burien city council. As you can see, this is an issue that concerns everyone who lives in Burien.

– Vicki Hurley

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33 Responses to “LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘Why Animal Control Matters to Everyone’”
  1. Joey Martinez says:

    Thank you Mrs Hurley for your letter.

    In the council packet for Monday (http://burienwa.gov/archives/30/061812a.pdf) the CARES presentation is in there starting on page 91.

    The contract is also in there and starts on page 75.


    Joey Martinez

    • TryAgain says:

      It is time for the City Council to step up and admit they made a mistake in granting the
      CARES contract. On page 6 of the contract, Section 11 – Termination, item B states “For public convenience. The City may terminate this contract in whole or in part whenever the City determines in its sole discretion that such termination is in the interests of the City.”

      Doesn’t this give the City an “out” to come up with a more effective, professional animal control solution and cancel the contract with CARES? Termination would be in the interest of the animals and citizens of Burien!

  2. Wowzer says:

    Wow – that was quite a lecture!! Ms. Hurley must feel she can do a better job than CARES. Does she offer her time or her dollars to help? Probably not. Its a non-profit, you know. I’m sure they could use more volunteers.

    Don’t know that the City of Burien budget can handle King County Animal Control prices. That’s why we aren’t using them. Hurley’s buddy down there doesn’t tell her about the many people that are happy with CARES. I hope some of them come and sit in the audience on Monday night too.

    • Marianne says:

      Wowzer-CARES says it is a non-profit but it is actually not.

    • William Forest says:

      Wowser.. You are out of step and out of touch with the reality of the terrible job that CARES is doing in Burien.. A viable endeavor such as this needs PROFESSIONALS not just volunteers.. ARE YOU A VOLUNTEER? Apparently you have no problem volunteering other people!
      You claim that Burien cannot afford the King County contract.. HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT? Currently there IS NO CONTRACT and it apparently is being looked at so NO costs are known at this time. I agree with the poster.. Burien CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO have a viable animal control and care program.. We OBVIOUSLY DO NOT HAVE THAT NOW!!

      • Joey Martinez says:

        William, the RAS-KC proposal is in the council packet on page 93.

        Estimated total costs for RAS-KC in 2013: $411,725 (minus) $70,000 licensing revenue for a cost to the General Fund of $341,725

        Estimated total costs for CARES in 2013: $120,000 (minus) $70,000 licensing revenue for a cost to the general fund of $50,000

        RAS-KC also is heavily reliant on volunteers per the website. http://www.kingcounty.gov/safety/regionalAnimalServices/Volunteer.aspx

        Joey Martinez

        • Eaton B. Verz says:

          Joey, I’m real interested in your solution. In your opinion what is the “Best for Burien”?
          Thanx, Eaton

          • Joey Martinez says:

            There are two options
            1) We pony up for RAS-KC. We’ll need to find over $340,000 to pay for this. I’ve repeatedly studied the budget and I don’t really think we can cut anything. Gov’t has been cutting for years (personal experience) and services are pretty close “to the bone”. It only gets worse in 2013 with the economy as it currently is.

            2) Study what the city of Auburn is doing. They’re proposing to leave RAS-KC and go OUR route – with the additional funding and higher levels of service that even RAS-KC offers. I’ve not seen their latest study (been busy twice a month on Tuesdays for some reason) but will ask soon enough in a public disclosure request. What the total would cost – I don’t know.

            The big draw to option 1 is that RAS-KC is a name we know and trust. I’ve heard from some animal volunteers that RAS-KC is not the old Nationally recognized and beloved organization it once was. They rely too much on volunteers and even if well intentioned they’re not as good as the old “professional” system with King County Animal Control.

            The big draw to option 2 is that it’s cheaper and if we were to double funding (increase payment by $50k per year we’re still have saving almost $300,000 per year.

            The big issue with CARES is that it has a bad reputation in many circles. Even if the extra $50k were to solve all the problems it would take a long time to repair the trust issue. Kind of like that old saying, “One ‘Oh SH!T’ wipes out twenty ‘Atta Boy’s’ earned”

            Money is tight and It’s doubtful the voters will support any tax increase at this time, so even coming up with a $50k increase in funding will be tough.

            So, I ask you (and readers) with those two basic options (there is much more details that I could add but am time limited to breaks right now)

            1)Raise taxes or cut other services (and what would you cut?) to pay for RAS-KC to raise $340,000
            2)Try and find a way to raise $50k to increase funding to a potential money pit with a currently bad reputation.
            3) no changes (that’s always an option even if we don’t like it.)

            Joey Martinez

        • Erik Robbins says:

          Like my Father use to say “You get what you pay for”.

          • Eaton B. Verz says:

            Joey, I would like see additional funding but I fear that with CARES it would be throwing more money away. I imagine that we can negotiate a sort of ala carte service with the county to bring down costs. It cannot be worse than what we have now. It looked to me that the numbers you referenced were from the CARES presentation. Yup, I trust those….Anyway, You didn’t answer my question. What would Joey do??? Thanks,Eaton

          • Joey Martinez says:

            Eaton, to be honest I’m not sure what the “right” answer would be. I think a hybrid model might be best with 1-2 animal control officers provided directly by Burien or maybe a contract and rent the space/ housing from RAS-KC. I THINK Des Moines has a similar setup, but I am not 100% sure on what that cost would be. I’d need to research what EXACTLY Des Moines Animal Control does and what they use RAS-KC for.

            I definitely think that option would cost more than CARES but less than RAS-KC full services. What that cost would be? I am not sure.

            Joey Martinez

          • Eaton B. Verz says:

            Joey, The Des Moines model was suggested before we had CARES by councilman Block but was rejected by the rest of the council. I thought it was a good alternative to Dr. Kasper but cheaper than the county. I hope councilman Block will remind them of it again. Especially if they are thinking of adding $$$ to animal control budget. Thanks for your answer! Regards, Eaton

  3. Lindsay says:

    Thank you Vicki Hurley for this well thought out and concisely pointed letter. You’ve expressed many of the concerns that I think a lot of people in Burien have.

    I’ve noticed that those individuals who have been to the CARES facility have expressed dismay over the conditions of the shelter. Since CARES is responsible for maintaining a shelter that complies “with the best practices and/or professional shelter standards promoted by national animal welfare organizations, (pg. 13 of the contract) I wonder how often the City is checking on the location to insure that CARES is complying with the contract.

    The CARES group has a 4 year/$360,000 contract by the way. And if this is not enough to provide adequate care for the animals of Burien, than the budget needs to be reconsidered. We are a city that cares about our pets. The city council should keep that in mind.

    • TryAgain says:

      I agree – if CARES requires more funding to provide humane care to the animals in their custody now is the time to present their case. Again, in the contract on pages 1-2 in Section 3, it states “Due to the new nature of this contract, the contract terms and services shall be reviewed by both parties no later than six months from the start date (by December 15, 2011) and periodically thereafter to determine if modifications to the scope of services and compensation are needed.”

      This clause indicates that if CARES requires additional funding OR the City is concerned about the level of service provided, the parties can at least reconsider the current situation. If a bit more money would make a significant improvement on the care available to the animals, I’ll bet many citizens of Burien would support such changes. Hopefully, Ms. George gives a true representation of the services being offered and provides the Council with concrete options for improvement . Egos aside. For the sake of citizens and the animals.

      • William Forest says:

        The city has done a TERRIBLE job of oversight on this contract.
        How about putting the horse before the cart and doing an audit or at least an inspection of what CARES is doing behind closed doors.. Mr Martin apparently in not interested in doing that and has been dragging his feet on even getting a status report from them for the last couple of months.. .He keeps putting it off.. He reminds me of those funky monkeys that see no evil and hear no evil… He needs to get with the program and do the job he was hired to do instead of spending so much time empire building and losing lawsuits.

  4. Lindsay says:

    My apologies–it is a 3 year/$360,000 contract.

  5. Barbara Levich says:

    CARES does a good job considering that the had to build out a new facility, which isn’t quite finished yet. Most important, the folks there actually like animals and really want to do the best possible for them. They could definitely use some more volunteer help. Rather than complain, why not see what you can do to be part of the solution?

    • Ghost of Maplewild says:

      I actually do volunteer to a few different organizations in Burien. But I REFUSE to donate my time to anything that has Martin’s stink on it.

    • William Forest says:

      We don’t need a partial solution .. instead of kicking the can down the road lets hire REAL PROFESSIONALS and negotiate a contract with King County!

  6. Ghost of Maplewild says:

    I would like to know how much money CARES has received in donations. I recall that some amazing young ladies donated some of their hard earned money about a year ago. Also wasn’t CARES supposed to be fully operational in Jan or Feb? I recall seeing a picture of George holding blue prints proudly in her hands.

  7. Burien Animal Lover says:

    We tried to volunteer to help out but were told that they didn’t need any help.

    We have also been told what a “great job” they are doing when our first hand experience on more than one occasion showed the exact opposite. We are not political activists or parts of any big group. We are simply a family that has been slapped down by CARES on all 3 occasions that we have had an encounter with them. There have been many posts about other people’s experiences here and they are just blown off as “being anti-Martin” not the truth that the people who run CARES have no experience or real training. Telling people to advertise a sick, abandoned animal on Craigslist or to lie to other animal control agencies so they will take the animal (I was flat out told to tell King County that I found the animal in another town instead of Burien), refusing to even take a report on severe animal abuse is not the kind of animal control that we need here in Burien.

    I plan on trying to be there tomorrow to speak my mind on this issue. CARES clearly doesn’t and needs to be gone.

  8. Joe Wills says:

    Very well said Vicki Hurley, very well said indeed! If your letter doesn’t send a message to the city council to stop this obscene catastrophe lead by non-other than Debra “I own Burien” George. Than nothing will. We the citizens of Burien / Our animals are doomed!! By this joke of a non-profit called CARES. Our animals will continue to be at risk from those whom have NO experience in the animal control business.
    For those of you that say “you need to go to CARES and volunteer your time to help build” Build what?? A place where OUR animals may end up in some make shift kennels made out of ply board and plexus- glass. Lord knows what they have in the back? They wouldn’t take me back there, but yet this place is supposed to be open to the public. What public? Maybe Debra and her cronies!! I have been to the shelters in this area Seattle, Bellevue, Kent and Tacoma. I NEVER saw anything that looked like what I saw at CARES. This whole thing is wrong! What is it going to take to get KCAC back in our community?
    We the people of Burien need to send a strong message to the city council that CARES needs to go, and that Mike Martin needs to go also. It is very clear that he doesn’t CARE. We need to ALL need to go to the city council meeting MONDAY at 7:00pm be there of you really care about your animals.

  9. TryAgain says:

    What a great letter with such pertinent points and examples! If only our City leaders understood civic issues as well as Ms. Hurley understands the issues surrounding animal control, just imagine how safe, clean and prosperous Burien would be.
    Please, all concerned Citizens show up at the council meeting on Monday and let your voices be heard! This is America – government for the people and by the people – and the Council should be representing the Citizens of Burien, not Mike Martin’s crazy plans to spend the City’s funds on risky endeavors like more annexation, build-your-own animal control, and buying back property that private developers aren’t willing to sink more money into at this time.

  10. Brian says:

    This is a great letter but I think it should be sent to larger news outlets. If Burien City Council wants to grow to be the “15 largest city in Washington” then it needs to expect to be in the news spotlight a lot more. It was great to see them in this weeks Sunday Times. The BTB is a great place but sometimes things need to go to larger audience.

  11. Options says:

    The options at the time of the contract were.

    1. Cut one police officer and go with King COunty
    2. Turn animal control over to the Police to do
    3. Hire a contractor to perform Animal contol.

    Only one group bid. if people want different animal control, put TOGETHER an orginazation and bid on it when the contract is up.

    Also in tonight’s packet is a letter outlining a vicous Dog owned by Councilman Block

  12. Verde says:

    I’ve looked on Guidestar and the IRS charity search and can find nothing on this organization. I would like to get a look at their financials – non-profit financials are a great help start in evaluating the effectiveness of an organization. Most non-profit IRS forms are filed on Guidestar, as they are public info. However, I can find nothing, and I’ve tried all iterations of their name, including the dba from the contract. There’s no tax ID number, nothing. So, no way to verify their 501(c)(3) status or look anything up.

  13. Feralcat says:

    The paperwork has been “filed”. It should be here in 30 days.:

  14. Teri Ensley says:

    A Viable Solution For Animal Care Funding

    If the citizens of Burien really want to contract with Regional Animals Services of King County, the money is available through pet licensing fees. Make a commitment to purchase annual pet licenses and you will be funding the RAS of KC contract. Citizens could also ban together and come up with an implementation plan on how to entice others to purchase pet license. By doing so, citizens can take control and show the City Council that additional taxes or cutting other programs, is not necessary in order to fund Animal Care.

    Below is the income calculation for pet license sales. I posted this on another blog topic awhile back, so for those that have seen it previously, by apologies.

    If Burien made a concerted effort to sell pet licenses to even 50% of the pet owners, they would have plenty of money to contract with Regional Animal Services of King County. Pet licenses could be sold at the Farmers’ Market; local businesses; Veterinarian Offices; city parks; festivals and more. There are many creative ways to increase the number of pet licenses sold, including utilizing volunteers to staff tables at various city events.

    Here are the estimated figures:

    Based on Burien’s human population (footnote 1), the estimated number of owned cats and dogs is 21,664 (footnote 2).

    For simplicity, assume all owned cats and dogs are altered, therefore the license fee is $30.00.
    • 21,664 x $30.00 = $649,920

    Calculations and Documentation

    footnote 1: Burien 2011 Population Demographics
    2011 Estimate 46,579

    footnote 2: Estimated Owned Cats and Dogs (Petsmart Charities formula)
    Pet cats, divide human pop by 3.3.
    46,579 / 3.3 = 14,114 owned cats

    footnote 2: Pet dogs : http://www.guerrillaeconomics.biz/bestfriends/ReportViewer.aspx
    Estimated Number of Dogs 7,550

    footnote 2: Total Cats and Dogs
    Estimated dogs: 7,550
    Estimated owned cats: 14,114
    Total Owned Pets: 21,664

    • Teri Ensley says:

      Sorry about the double post….had to correct the ‘footnote portion’ because superscript does not work on this blog. Please disregard the first post and read the second one.

      Another point, the Council packet for the RAS-KC proposal shows that currently only $70,000 is collected for pet license fees. This means less than 2,400 pets are licensed, (18,000+ are not licensed), yet the above calculation shows there are approx 21,000+ dogs and cats in Burien. There is a huge revenue stream opportunity if the Citizens of Burien step up.

  15. William Forest says:

    Thanks Teri.. I think its pretty obvious if we want a professional comprehensive animal control program in the city of Burien we need to contract with RAS-KC. Burien is in District 500 one of 3 districts in King County did not join the contract consortium of the other cities in District 500 which are Kent, Seatac, Tukwila, Black Diamond, Covington, Enumclaw, Maple Valley and the Uncorporated King County inside District 500.
    So unless Mike Martin does the job he was paid to do and negotiates his way into the consortium contract the cost of a RASKC contract for 2013 for Burien by itself taking into account a credit of as you mentioned of a very low number for license fees would be $320,000. However this is full blown coverage done by professionals and in a one stop shop rather than being pawned off or directed to other organizations like CARES does. We would also have the services of 3 official animal control officers 6 days a week unlike the inadequate service that CARES is currently sort of providing..
    I am working on setting up a web site where the proposals from RAS-KC can be hosted for everyone to see. They are also available from the city clerk upon request.

  16. Feralcat says:

    Cares is still NOT registered with the IRS as 501 3 (c) 7/7/12

  17. sallie tierney says:

    Right now Burien animal control is almost non-existent and leash laws unenforceable. That being said, the primary responsibility for animal control and animal protection has to be with the pet owner. Case in point: last night I was half a block from home, returning from the grocery store when a chocolate lab ran out in front of my car. There wasn’t a prayer of stopping in time. Many neighbors (including several children and the owners of the dog) witnessed this accident. Luckily the dog was able to run home (which I’m hoping means he wasn’t too badly injured) but I was still shaking with shock hours later, the dog was undoubtedly hurting, the owners distraught (probably more so when they see the bill from the vet), the witnesses traumatized – completely preventable consequences if only the owners had protected their dog with a fence or kept him on a leash. Dog owners, love your pet by honoring the leash law!

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