Improvements to Burien CARES Animal Control ‘apparent’ to reviewer
by Jack Mayne
The woman who reviewed Burien CARES last year told the City Council on Monday (July 7) that there have been many improvements during the past year.
Denise McVicker, the deputy director of the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County, concluded Burien CARES passed muster a year ago, but needed many fixes and additions of equipment and procedures.
When she began her visit this year, McVicker said “it was apparent pretty quickly the number of improvements I saw… .They have a uniform, they answer the phone professionally, they answer it quickly, they were very professional in their phone answering while I was there reviewing them this time. They called people back quickly.”
Shelter field practices were “improved immensely” and noted that changes she suggested last year in the way that animals are housed and cared for were made along with improvements in the maintenance of the shelter buildings and the kennels. McVicker also said the staff has improved the use of computer programs and the material it covers.
She said last year there was only one person to manage the shelter, to do outside patrol and to care for the animals, but a second person has been trained and added to the staff so that the animal control officer, Ray Helms, can take a day off or be sick. CARES also had Helms and the new hire attend and graduate from the Washington Animal Control training course.
“Another improvement was the dead animal pick up,” McVicker said. “In the past, if your animal might have been hit by a car and was picked up by the road maintenance folks, animals were not scanned nor was it recorded anywhere. So if you lost you animal and it was deceased, you pretty much had no clue to what happened.”
She said CARES facility now has an exam room in case they are able in the future to start giving animals vaccines as they arrive at the shelter. Many shelters give immediate vaccinations, regardless of whether the animal had previous care. “It is to protect the rest of the population,” McVicker told the Council. “They need training and additional funds for that.”
Currently, animals are vaccinated a while after they are taken in, the work done by a local veterinarian.
CARES have also provided a locked and cleanable quarantine room as well as a separate cat quarantine room where an animal with a contagious disease can be kept safely.
She said it was not a requirement, but it would be good to have a sanitizing dishwasher, which later CARES Director Debra George told the Council it was to be installed soon. She also has suggested a three-compartment sink so that items can be washed, rinsed and disinfected.
Another suggestion for CARES is to establish a “barn cat program,” for feral cats to become “rodent patrol” for properties, if those cats are taken in. It would be a place for feral cats if the person who brought them in didn’t want them back as was suggested earlier in the meeting by resident Kathy Barlow Bysheim.
McVicker said the CARES contract with the city does not require it to take cats but it does on occasion.
She said “if they took cats, they would have to have additional funds because it costs money to take care of the animals.” When asked by Councilmember Debi Wagner she did not have an estimate on how much money would be needed to regularly take in cats.
Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz asked about constant complaints of dogs running loose in the city.
CARES Director Debra George says they respond to loose dog calls “all the time” but it is done on time and priority basis.
“If they are out on a dog bit case or injured dog, that is going to take priority over a loose dog,” George said. “A lot of time, when we get there, they are not there, but we do take time driving around looking for it.”
Under the new rules the Council adopted this year, citizens are given three minutes to comment on its Business agenda.
Roger Delorm wanted to know if CARES “is a good waste of money, or not?” after hearing others suggest the agency does things some question.
Chuck Rangel added that he has been unable to get copies of nonprofit reports that CARES is required to file with the Internal Revenue Service. He asked the Council not to do business with the agency until it makes these reports available to the public.
Later in the meeting, Debra George said they had all of the reports and others some Council members asked about and would make them available.
Perennial council commenter Goodspaceguy said he was just “brainstorming” but would it be a good idea to have more than one animal care contractor available to the residents – “if one calls CARES and can’t get through, then one can call ‘Cares More’ and they might get an answer.”