Editorial County must do right by animals

Elsewhere on this page is an article by Julia Patterson and Ron Sims. It’s worth reading.

Elsewhere on this page is an article by Julia Patterson and Ron Sims. It’s worth reading.

Patterson is head of the Metropolitan King County Council. Sims is County Executive. Both are astute politicians, the kind of people you want helping run our government.

Recently, several reports have condemned the county for shoddy treatment of animals in its shelters, one of which is in Bellevue. The council and executive followed by trading barbs over who is to blame.

Sims and Patterson finally sat down to discuss the situation. The result: a possible solution to the mess.

Make no mistake, the county’s animal care situation is in bad shape. Sick dogs are kept near healthy ones, making it almost guaranteed that all dogs eventually will get sick. The facilities are dirty and animals aren’t getting the routine medical attention they need.

Like most things in life, the solution requires money. Sims wants to spend an additional $965,000 this year to improve conditions.

A big chunk of it – $200,000 – would go for new portable dog runs. Another $125,000 would expand spay and neuter service at the shelters by hiring one veterinarian and one veterinary technician. Hiring another full-time shelter officer and two temporary employees also would cost $125,000. Additional money would go for such things as new cat cages, hiring an animal placement specialist and replacing the truck-transport boxes that carry dogs and cats to the shelters when they are picked up off the street.

However, this is just a down payment on the solution. The shelter facilities themselves are inadequate to do the job. The small Bellevue shelter probably should be closed. The larger shelter in Kent needs to be rebuilt, most likely from the ground up. More day-to-day staff also need to be hired, beyond the quick fixes proposed for this year.

No one knows the cost, but it’s likely millions of dollars, both for construction and operation. The need comes as the county budget already is facing a shortfall.

It would be easy to say the county should just get out of the animal care and control business. That would be unwise. Private groups, even one as large and professional as the Bellevue-based Seattle Humane Society, can’t be expected to pick up the slack without a large infusion of cash. The county would – and should – be on the hook for that.

A master plan that would address facilities and operation now is in the works. It is due to be presented to the County Council by Aug. 15. Once in hand, the council and executive must find a way to properly care for and control animals in need. The county has shirked its duty long enough.

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