Is Animal Control A Discretionary Service?

Public services are being cut in counties across America, many effecting animal shelters and animal control. In Kings County (WA.) there are proposed budget cuts...


Public services are being cut in counties across America, many effecting animal shelters and animal control.

In Kings County (WA.) there are proposed budget cuts which could eliminate animal control services, something which may have a far wider negative impact than at first glance.

County Executive Kurt Triplett said he will eliminate all discretionary services, and that could include huge cuts in parks and animal control. He hopes to protect the prosecutor’s office and other parts of the Public Safety Department from any major cuts, looking at 2 percent cuts in Public Safety compared with 8 to 10 percent countywide.

He said he will look at cuts in all services not required by the state, and may cut all parks funds not covered by the King County parks levy. This may mean the county will try to persuade local cities to take over county parks in annexation areas, and try to enlist a nonprofit agency, such as the Humane Society, to take over animal control.

But Brenda Barnette, with the Seattle Humane Society, said her organization would like to help, but doesn’t have the resources to take over King County animal control.

When Ron Sims was executive, he asked the Humane Society to work up a proposal on the costs for taking over animal control, and the organization came up with a figure of about $5 million, she said.

“We felt King County animal control was grossly understaffed. There was no interest (from King County) in this and we moved on. We’re not thinking of taking on that responsibility.

“If (Triplett) wants to cut his budget down to zero, it would be insane to volunteer to take it over. We don’t have that surplus money,” she said.

She said without animal control there would be no one to pick up stray dogs or vicious dogs, and each city in the county would have to have its own program.

Claire Davis, an attorney and co-chairwoman of KCAA Exposed, a grass-roots group formed last year to demand changes in King County animal control, said she was shocked by Triplett’s proposal.

“Cutting the budget down to zero has never seriously been considered by anyone. It’s irresponsible and insane,” she said.

Davis said it would be illegal for the county to stop animal control in unincorporated King County.

Metropolitan King County Council member Julia Patterson agreed.

“There’s a state mandate that we provide animal-control services,” she said, but added that she doesn’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea for King County to get out of the animal-control business.

“This gives us an opportunity to explore if other entities could do a better job,” Patterson said, adding that maybe it should be considered as a regional service, with all cities in the county contracting with an agency, such as the Humane Society, for animal control.

“You can’t leave unincorporated King County in the lurch with services for dangerous dogs or dogs running loose,” she said. “But I don’t think it’s such a bad suggestion. We can rethink how to provide the service in a much more humane and progressive way. He’s (Triplett has) thrown the first shot out there, and this is how we evolve. It makes us think outside the box, and that’s a good thing.”

While I realize that times are tough and budgets need to be cut, I hope those in charge consider the end result of their actions. Eliminating the budget for animal control may get them what they want now but cost them far more in the long term.

I want to thank Dogster member Daddy for barking this important story to me.

* In loving memory of Bo’s buddy Checkers-July 4, 1994-July 27, 2009.

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