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