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Animal control likely to stay with county

Since 2010, the city of Mercer Island has contracted for animal control services through Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC). Now, the member cities, which include Bellevue, Redmond and Newcastle, are being asked to give an idea of their intent to continue with the agreement. Each has been asked to sign letters of intent so that the agency can plan for the future. The letters for now are non-binding.

Not everyone is happy with RASKC. While some decry the amount of animals that are euthanized each year, others point out that the RASKC offers economies of scale and is already functioning.

The cities of Kirkland, Auburn and Shorelines have already said they may leave the system.

As with any such partnership between agencies, there is disagreement. A blog on the RASKC website notes that at least one group — the Seattle Humane Society (SHS) — is jockeying for a subregional model and urged the city of Bellevue to contract with them.

Some want the Island and other cities to join SHS.

Islander Kay Hirai is distressed that the city is apparently unwilling to look at alternatives.

“It sounds like they will just go with the status quo,” she said of the city’s decision to sign a second letter of intent to stay on with RASKC.

This is upsetting, Hirai said. The King County shelter’s kill rate is unacceptably high. The save rate at the Seattle Humane Society, on Eastgate Way in Bellevue, is one of the highest in the nation, she added.

The Seattle Humane Society is willing to take on the Eastside cities at the present location, she explained.

“They firmly believe they can lower the cost.”

City Manager Rich Conrad said that signing the letter of intent is non-binding, but that there is little alternative for Mercer Island or the other four Eastside cities.

“It all depends on Bellevue,” he said, who also recently signed a letter of intent to stay on with RASKC.

“There cannot be a ‘subregional’ shelter without Bellevue taking the lead,” he said.

The RASKC online blog meets the issue of the talk about a new subregional mode head-on, “noting that private organizations have launched efforts to persuade our partner cities to sever their ties to RASKC.”

“What’s not noted in these appeals is the fact that departing cities would still need to build costly new systems for animal control operations and pet licensing, as none of the private proposals provides for these critical services, above and beyond shelter care. Residents need to understand that departing cities would have to incur start-up costs and new overhead for control and licensing that will duplicate the infrastructure already in place with the regional system. In essence, the public will be paying twice for the same set of comprehensive services."

The city of Mercer Island pays, on average, $52,000 each year to the agency for animal services, according to Mercer Island Police Commander Dave Jokinen. The fees include field services or calls, sheltering of animals, and processing and collecting county pet licensing fees. On average there have been 19 dogs sheltered at RASKC a year for the Island, Jokinen said. RASKC responds to an average of 60 calls a year on the Island.

Jokinen, who said he has personally not visited the shelter, said that the costs of a subregional model would likely be very similar to what the Island pays now. But RASKC already has the economy of scale to keep costs lower than they could be — and they already have the system in place to track the licensing piece.

On its website, RASKC posts information about the shelter, including statistics about how many animals it handles each month. The latest data is from 2011. At the beginning of April 2011, the shelter had 144 animals. They took in 499. Of those, 177 were adopted and 121 were sent to foster care. Four animals that were brought in died in care at the shelter, 24 were pronounced dead on arrival and 47 were euthanized. At the end of the month, a total of 268 animals were in foster care.

The statistics reveal that the number of animals handled by the shelter is lumpy. The intake for the very next month, May 2011, was 622 animals.

Find out more

The RASKC site has resources and links about how to volunteer, how and where to adopt or foster a pet and other information.

Go to www.kingcounty.gov/safety/regionalAnimalServices/ContactUs.aspx.

The shelter is located in Kent at 21615 64th Ave. South.


 

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