The writing has been on the wall for years. First came the September 2007 citizens committee report calling shelter conditions in King County “deplorable”. If you’ve followed the KCACC oversight committee education work being done at kcaccexposed.org, you know that the staff that works at Animal Care and Control and at the shelters are doing everything they can within a broken system. Many critics of the way KCACC has been run claim that the $1 million dollar one time allocation to fix the system wasn’t enough because of tragically bad management and failed oversight at KCACC. Now I’m reading the announcement on the Metropolitan King County Council web site dated September 24, 2009 that is titled Council member commends Executive for implementing their call to get King County out of the shelter business. What does this mean exactly? Well, as with all governmental issues, it means several things. (click on the image above to see video of the KOMO Problem Solvers’ story on this issue).
For one, it means that because the county is facing a $56 million budget short fall, it’s going to look for a private organization to fulfill the county’s public safety function of Animal Care and Control. “Last year, we stated publicly that the King County Animal Shelter system was so broken that it could not be fixed and asked the Executive to consider a new system. I commend him for taking decisive action to implement our request,” said Council Chair Constantine. “King County has been failing in its obligation to provide humane care for the animals in our custody. This solution will shift sheltering services to a proven community provider.” The problem is that our interim Executive is not implementing a solution. He’s simply shutting down the shelters, without an alternative solution in place, and he’s doing it soon.
When this happens (and the Kent shelter is scheduled to be shut down on November 1st), the Seattle Animal Shelter, the Seattle/King County Humane Society, and every private rescue group in King County is going to be literally over run with homeless animals and all of these organizations are inundated already. The county has been talking to the Humane Society for years about taking over these responsibilities for the county, but how is the Humane Society supposed to pay for the services the county wants them to provide? If a $1 million infusion couldn’t solve the problem, how is a non-profit organization supposed to step up and solve the problem over night, with no additional funding?
Some county employees, volunteers, and animal advocates argue that the animals of King County would be better served by turning over Animal Care and Control and sheltering services to a private organization. I’m not disagreeing with this position. Across the country, we’ve seen privatization of the Animal Care and Control function handled well and we’ve seen it handled poorly. Really, no matter who takes over this responsibility, isn’t about having a plan in place before any decision is made? Isn’t it about transparency in the system? After all, we’re making decisions about a population that doesn’t have a voice, the animals.
If you think that this problem is only about treating stray animals humanely, that’s only part of the story. This is a public safety issue. If you want to see what happens when a county agency is stretched too thin and given too many mandates, read the Seattle Times article Dog attack victims wait days or weeks for response. Too often, when a county or city’s Animal Care and Control responsibilities are handled poorly, we see elected officials respond with harmful, unfair, and expensive Breed Specific Legislation which we believe is the absolutely worst response to the problem.
If you’ve read this far, you may be wondering what you can do about this situation. I’d like to make a few suggestions:
Our King County Executive is only serving in an interim capacity. Get involved and make the candidates for this open seat state their position on Animal Care and Control. Do either of these candidates have a plan? Contact Susan Hutchison and Dow Constantine and find out before your cast your vote.
You can donate money locally to the organizations who will be handling the problem that King County is throwing over the wall to them. Donating your money to the Seattle Animal Shelter or your local Humane Society means that the money will be used locally.
Lastly, if you can’t donate money, you can volunteer as a foster home. Both the Seattle Animal Shelter foster program and the Seattle Humane Society foster program need your help. Space is critical when it comes to saving the lives of homeless animals until they can be placed in their forever homes.
Please let us know your thoughts about King County Animal Care and Control being eliminated as a county government funded function. If you contact our candidates for County Executive, let us know what their responses were. Do you live in a community where this function was privatized? What was the experience like in your community?
Kara M. says
Great article! You hit the nail on the head.
The reality is that thousands of animals are surrendered in the Puget Sound region every year and there are now even fewer places for them to go. Shelters in the area are already over-burdened and under-funded, so it will be tough times at many shelters in the region.
I hope that this will mobilize citizens to think about what type of animal community we want to build. It is noble to talk about what excellence in animal care looks like, but excellence requires A LOT of time, work and money. I think this area is capable of being exemplary in care for their animals. All the pieces are here.
It goes without saying that preventing animals from coming into the shelter should be priority #1. Spaying and neutering can go a long ways towards ending overpopulation.
In the shelters, there are big things that many people can do to help. Foster homes for adult cats, dogs without manners and a variety of critters are desperately needed. Animals cannot be rehabilitated in a stressful shelter environment. Foster homes are the only way that agencies have been successful in reducing euthanasia. They will be needed now more than ever.
Donations also are imperative for our work. We are able to treat sick dogs and cats thanks to the generosity of our donors. Just $5 can cure an upper respiratory infection.
As we move forward, think of our local shelters and how we can all pitch in to help. Seattle feels like Dogtown, USA everyday. How can we translate that into the best community for animals in the country?
Seattle Animal Shelter
So rather than a planned, staged transition, King County will shut down animal control and sheltering just as crudely as it operated them. Expect a rise in dog bite incidents and stray animals, and an increase in local citizens shooting dogs in the street because no one is available to respond to their calls. Expect more feral cats. Expect police officers to throw their hands in the air when they’re suddenly overwhelmed with a new responsibility that they have neither the time nor the training to deal with. KCACC needs to shut down, but not because of a lack of funding — the funding needs to go to an organization like Seattle Humane that’s proven itself to be a progressive, well-managed animal welfare group, and smaller contracts with smaller rescue and foster care groups wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
Everyone is talking about budgets these days, but there are some things you do regardless of the cost because they’re necessary and right, and animal welfare is one of those things. Animal control is one of the most basic functions of local government, and it benefits people just as much as, if not more than, it benefits animals. And there are grants out there if King County goes no-kill, which it’s my understanding it was supposed to have already done, but KCACC refused to comply.
Kobe's Mom says
Great article, asking the right questions and putting the animals first. The capricious manner in which the decision was made to close KCACC does not surprise me. Exec involvement in KCACC and its reform/future has been schizophrenic to say the least. They went from “everything is fine, just leave us alone” two years ago, to “just give us the $ and everything will be fine” to now “nothing can be done, we’re getting out of the business tomorrow”. Every decision that has been made has been a political one, with the animal’s fate and welfare coming in dead last, if at all. It’s been excruciating to watch and I hope for all our sakes, it’s over soon, especially for the animal’s. The leadership demonstrated by the Seattle Humane Society has convinced me that taking animal sheltering out of the public sector is the single most progressive move King County can make, but they’ll need the financial support to make it a success. In the right hands, tax-payer fees and donations can build a world-class foster/adoption/spay and neuter outreach program, making King County the model across the country. Animal cruelty investigations belong with all other law enforcement mandates, with KC Sheriff’s dept or local PDs where appropriate. The writing is in the wall for KCACC, but the transition plan cannot be subject to the whims and manipulations of the powers that be. The public should demand that the animals be first and foremost in any decision, building a coalition to support the model animal care and protection program on our horizon.
Debby Norman says
I agree with everything posted above. This action by King County is just astonishing. I thought county agencies were about planning and process.
That would have required King County to come up with a plan to place the 400 animals in its custody and then announce the shelter’s closure. Instead, they did it in reverse. They’re closing and dumping the problems on everyone else.
What about those 400 animals? Every other county shelter and rescue group combined couldn’t take them all. I’m afraid we may end up with a mass putdown, with the county shrugging its shoulders and saying, well, there was nothing else we could do.
The steps suggested above will ease the crisis if more people are willing to take them. But I think the people concerned about this need to get organized, hold King County’s feet to the fire and do what it takes to keep this issue visible.
I’ve never tried to organize anything, but I know the first step is linking people together. Facebook might be one place where I could try to do that. If anyone has any other ideas, please let me know.
Attention must be paid.
King County hasn’t the resources to adequately care for the people who’s basic well being it is responsible for let alone the animals. What about “there’s not enough money to go around” don’t you understand?
If people want homeless animals to be cared for then they need to step up and do it themselves. You can supply your own reasons for it but King County cannot do it any longer without adversely affecting a whole lot of humans.
R W STECKELBERG DVM says
kansas city,missouri shelter was privatized 10 months ago. I received the contract. This is a tremendous undertaking but has been very successful. adoptions have tripled and we are approaching to a point where all adoptable animals are adopted. We receive between 700-800 animals monthly. would be very happy to talk to anyone from seattle.
R WAYNE STECKELBERG DVM
concealed carry permit says
I do not drop a comment, but after looking at through a lot of
comments here King County Animal Care & Control?.
I do have some questions for you if it’s okay.
And, if you are posting at other online sites, I’d like
to follow you. Would you make a list of all of your shared pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?