LETTER: Concerns that Burien had Pierce County Humane Society evaluate CARES

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

It’s concerning that Burien asked the Pierce County Humane Society, one of the highest kill shelters in the state, to evaluate CARES. The PCHS routinely kills cats under 2 pounds and fudge their kill rate numbers. For example: 1 = 1 Litter. Ms. McVicker recommends a Barn Cat Program for CARES, but this is something Pierce County or Tacoma do not have, so how is she an expert on this? And, how can CARES even begin a Barn Cat Program, when half of Burien’s pet population – namely, cats – are not covered under their contract with the city? The only cats that appear for adoption are Owner Released. There are no ferals or friendly strays. You have turned a blind eye to these creatures and put the burden of tending to them on volunteers – citizens of Burien.

Puget Sound Working Cats, where I volunteer, took 5 years from initial discussions with King County to institute a BCP. With proven pilot programs and a number of county inspections, they were finally able to adopt this strategy regarding ferals. It took from 2003 until 2008 before it started looking like it would be a consistent and repeatable program. Now, a decade later, it can almost be called full-fledged. Does Burien have the luxury of helping our feline friends 10 years from now? Burien needs to step-up now to become a Partnering Organization with King County and work with them on a Barn Cat Program. Fragmentation sets us back a decade. It’s a monumental challenge to put together an experienced, dedicated team of volunteers.

By leaving King County Animal Control, Burien did not dig deeply enough to know exactly what they were getting for their animal control dollar. CARES is missing out on King County’s volunteer network of over 250 dedicated animal lovers and several Partnering Organizations, like Puget Sound Working Cats, Feral Cat Assistance & Trapping, South County Cats, Pasado’s Safe Haven and others.

Volunteers are the life-blood of any animal care and control agency. How many CARES workers are willing to get paid minimum wage to get up at 3am to set traps during the winter solstice when cats start breeding? How many would be willing to run cats all over Western WA for free or low-cost spay & neuter services? How many want to gain Vet Tech training to be able to successfully assess, treat or immediately disposition of a cat in crisis, any time of the day or night? How many would be willing to help humans recover from devastating animal outcomes? How many would be willing to net cats in a hoarding situation, compromising their own health for the cause?

At present, CARES’ cost model and lack of experience will not be able to fund a Barn Cat Program.

Kathy BarlowBysheim

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15 Responses to “LETTER: Concerns that Burien had Pierce County Humane Society evaluate CARES”
  1. Question Authority says:

    As a recent adoptive parent of one of a litter of seven kittens which were born, raised and weaned at Cares your blatent disgust of the hard work and dedication they provide to the animals of Burien is appalling. “Crazy Cat Lady” may apply here and the feral cat issue is one of education and common sense, without food and support the populations of any feral species will diminish and disappear. Hard words from a cat owner, but there is only so much room at the table of life.

  2. Question Authority says:

    This may be a duplicate because of web issues –
    As a recent client and adoptive parent of one of a litter of seven kittens born, raised and weaned at Cares I believe your venom aimed at them borders on “crazy cat lady” No one can provide the perfect environment for pet needs. With the way nature is supposed to work the feral among us are only existing because of outside intervention, leave the problem alone and nature will provide the answer. Harsh words from a cat owner but some things just will work out better when not influenced by humans such as yourself. Your efforts and the woes you speak of are all upon you and your private decisions.

  3. Marianne says:

    Kathy, Thank you for your informative letter to the editor. I have had the pleasure of working with both the Alley Cat Project and Barn Cats R Us. ACP works with the Seattle Animal Shelter to place feral cats in barn/shed/garage homes. Barn Cats R Us does the same work with Regional Animal Services of King County. Kathy is correct, since the City of Burien decided to come up with its own slapped together, shoddy form of animal control rather than to contract with RASKC, the animals of Burien suffer.

    And Question Authority-I am appalled knowing that CARES will let kittens be born in their facility, but yet turn away strays, including kittens. I recently took in a litter of 5 kittens that were nine days old, from the streets of Burien. Their stray/feral (?)mother had been hit and killed by a car on Des Moines Memorial Dr. and S. 128th. They had ringworm, fleas, and lice. Knowing that CARES won’t take stray cats, I had their finder bring the kittens to me. They were placed in foster care where they were bottle fed by a volunteer around the clock for five weeks until they could eat on their own. Shame on CARES for allowing kittens (or puppies) to be born when they are turning Burien’s stray cats away.

    • Question Authority says:

      The mother of those seven kittens I speak of surely did not appear out of thin air, she was brought to Cares and they took her in. Sounds like it is in the best interest not to let in feral cats given all the issues and problems they have and can spread. The table is full, no ferals.

      • Marianne says:

        I also recently took four kittens from a Burien resident who said that he “couldn’t get rid of them.” They were sweet, healthy, highly adoptable kittens. In exchange for taking his kittens, I told him that he would have to have his mother cat spayed. This Burien resident was thrilled to find that we could have it done for $25. Most people want to fix their animals, they just can afford the exorbitant fees veterinarians charge. Soon, this Burien resident and myself will be working together to trap-neuter-release several feral cats on his property. The need for animal control services in Burien for cats is very real.

  4. flashdog says:

    The Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC), with whom Burien could so easily have a contract, has a barn cat program. RASKC has strong partnerships with many respected Pacific Northwest rescues. So, perhaps RASKC’s barn cat program is the one Kathy was speaking of that is operated by Puget Sound Working Cats. At any rate, RASKC actually HAS programs — such as barn cats, special classes on how to find missing pets, pet bereavement support groups, volunteer training, lots and lots of animal fostering programs, and others.

    CARES has….. well, a bad reputation, mostly. CARES is going to start a barn cat program? Do they have any idea what that means? What it does not mean is simply dumping a feral or semi-feral cat at somebody’s house and hoping it will catch mice. Cats are complex animals. To put one in a new environment and convince it to stay there requires a good understanding of cats. If there are any other cats in the area, they will run the newcomer out of their territory and it will probably starve somewhere. A barn cat program is a tricky business and should only be undertaken by somebody who knows what they are doing. Admittedly I have not been in the CARES facility since they first opened, but at that time, they were unable to figure out how to clean cat boxes. Since then, I have heard and read story after story about CARES basically telling people, “We don’t do cats.” Now they suddenly have the specialized expertise necessary for a barn cat program?! When someone says to me that CARES is going to do a barn cat program, what that says to me is that a whole lot of feral and semi-feral cats are going to be put in places where they shouldn’t be and many of them will not survive the experience. I greatly appreciate Kathy’s wise, well written letter and I hope it helps to stop yet another bad CARES idea.

    • Question Authority says:

      From what I read in Kathy’s letter the feral cat program was recommended by a outside consultant, so where is your disgust with Cares even coming from? From both of your opinions it is clear nothing will ever make you happy and your, or Kathy’s “furver” is based on an absolute hatred of Cares and virtually nothing it seems will ever make you happy but a feral cat ruling the universe, at least the one you live in!

  5. flashdog says:

    Frankly, Question, my disgust with CARES comes from observations of CARES. It was a spur of the moment, makeshift plan to start with. Ms. George had no previous experience or training in animal care, control, or sheltering. The people who were backing her obviously believed that animal control entails little more than picking up the odd friendly stray dog. For example, Mike Martin, the man behind this whole debacle, once stood up in a council meeting and suggested Burien simply fit out a van with some dog crates and let …. oh, just any citizen who wanted to be “animal control”. Since I am active in the dog community and I do volunteer work for RASKC and I know several real animal control officers personally, I know that Mr. Martin’s remark is similar to suggesting that just any old body do your electrical work.

    I was in the CARES facility in its early days and a friendly young woman told me fairy tales about how she cleans the cat boxes every day — as we played with cats next to litter boxes overflowing with filth. I have not been back, but several of my friends have visited CARES since then and observed many unwise and unhealthy practices.

    Then there is the issue of integrity. In the first 2 years of CARES, they advertised on their webiste that they were a legally authorized non-profit. A local cat rescuer (who did and still does the feral cat rescue that CARES will not) was skeptical enough to call Olympia and reasearch. She found that, indeed, CARES had not even filed the paperwork. CARES quickly jumped to remedy that, but really — TWO years? I attended the city council meeting at which Ms. George gave the first public report on CARES “progress”. I’m sorry, the numbers in her Powerpoint presentation were impossible. There is no way they could be accurate. Someone called her on it and, as she floundered, Mike Martin jumped in and made some quick excuses. Right.

    The “field officer” of CARES is a man who had no training or experience in this field before being hired. He took a bare minimum crash course provided by the city. Since I know actual animal control field officers, I know how ridiculous it is to send someone out to do this job with such a complete lack of training and skill. Real animal control officers not only have basic training, but they go to classes and seminars throughout their careers. Don’t even get me started on what it takes to become an animal control officer. Mr. Helms seems to be a very nice man, but he has a long way to go to begin to be a field officer.

    This is getting pretty long, so I will stop here, but I could go on and on about the quickly cobbled together “shelter”, the sloppy record keeping, the “misplaced” aniimals that no one can account for…… Yes, I am disgusted with CARES, but it was not some random hate thing. There are good reasons. I recommend anyone who doubts that go down to the RASKC shelter in Kent and ask for a tour. Meet some officers and visit with them and you will quickly see the huge gulf between an animal control and sheltering facility and CARES.

    • Question Authority says:

      Since you have not even stepped foot in the door of Cares in what may amount to years because “most likely they had you trespassed by the police for obvious reasons” you take the opinions of others jaded as yourself as gospel? I believe you could actually turn your disgust into something positive by volunteering there to clean those “overflowing” litter boxes you speak of, because given all my recent visits those did not exist so your efforts would be simple, yet so helpful and actually beneficial for a change.

      • flashdog says:

        Not sure, Question, what you mean by “most likely they had you trespassed by the police for obvious reasons”. What? You are, of course, welcome to believe whatever you want. I will not volunteer one moment of my time with CARES because I regard it as a bad organization that keeps animals in inappropriate conditions and I will do nothing to help them keep on doing it. I DO volunteer time with and donate money to organizations like RASKC, Purrfect Pals Cat Rescue, Old Dog Haven, and others that do good things for animals. It is far more helpful, in my opinion, to promote organizations that are doing wonderful things than to pound my head against a wall trying to reform an organization that was a bad deal from the very start. I don’t expect anyone else to make decisions based on my opinion alone. Again, I strongly recommend that people visit the RASKC shelter and visit CARES. The difference is blazingly clear and the reason why RASKC costs more is also clear — because, as Marianne said, Burien would receive much, much more in terms of service.

        • Question Authority says:

          “Trespassed” as in ordered not to set foot on the property again by the police because you stomped up and down and shouted profanities about how wrong Cares is and how your ideas are better because you know everything about animal welfare, in your opinion.

  6. Laura Stiles says:

    There seem to be some common themes here:

    – Most of the “hate mail” seems to be coming from “cat people” who are upset that CARES doesn’t provide more services to cats. Well, as stated previously many times, it is the city who decided to cut costs by not including cat services in the contract. So yes, CARES turns away many cats because they are not funded to provide for cats. It would be inappropriate to divert public funds that are meant for dog sheltering and enforcement activities to instead take care of cats. They are using their resources to fulfill their contractual obligations. The subject of cat sheltering is also more complex than can easily be relayed here in the blog – issues like the fact that cats are so much more prolific (than dogs), ferals are essentially a cat (rather than dog) issue, and that it may not actually serve the cats well to be sheltered if they are unlikely to be adopted. Searching on “Community Cats” can provide more information on this subject.

    – The folks who are disgusted are usually presenting old information as their evidence, literally from years ago when the shelter was just getting underway. Much has changed since then, including more staff, additional training, standardized procedures, multiple Health Dept inspections, and two audits. And, two disgusted people above admit that they have not in fact been to the shelter in years, so again, their comments are not based on current info.

    – Dissenters seem to imply that “bigger is better.” I see it differently: The local community shelter and large regional shelter models are just different, with different potential benefits or shortcomings. One is not inherently better than the other. It’s fine to prefer the regional model, but let’s not forget the benefits that a local shelter can offer, such as officers dedicated only to Burien, very familiar with problem animals/people, with probably shorter response times, and a small shelter right in downtown. If my dog were missing, I might really prefer just running downtown and checking out 6 dogs, rather than having to drive to the Kent valley and searching through a large regional shelter housing hundreds of animals. The smaller shelter atmosphere also allows for a less stressful (less crowded, less noisy, etc) environment, where each animal can receive individual attention (neighborhood leash walks, time with volunteers, etc) that may not be available in a large regional shelter.

    – Since the beginning of this debate, I don’t recall anybody really addressing the issue of the much higher cost of participating in a regional model. Although the exact cost is unknown without a formal bid, all indications are that using RASKC would cost twice as much as an absolute minimum, and possibly more like three times as much. It’s fine to prefer the regional model, but then please back up your argument with current data (see comment above) and your proposal as to how it will be funded – where should the city take money from to pay for it?

    • Marianne says:

      Pay twice as much money to get equal care for cats? Sure, sounds like an excellent plan. Three times as much money for 10x as many services? Sounds even better!

    • Question Authority says:

      Well put, every choice or decision always has a financial cost that some will always ignore the reality of, because money for “their” pet peeve should “always” be funded first and foremost. And everything should also be perfect from day one at any institution providing services that “they” have an intense interest in, but do not even support.

  7. BR says:

    The next thing that needs to be investigated is CORES, (the jail).

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