Local animal shelters "deplorable," panel says
A citizens advisory committee on Thursday blasted King County's two animal shelters, saying the dogs and cats are kept in "deplorable" conditions...
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
Report's key findings• The Kent shelter is badly neglected and can't meet animals' basic needs.
• Bellevue's Crossroads-
area shelter is outdated and too small.
• Rate of contagious diseases in Kent shelter is higher than other local shelters.
• The county has "lost" 135 animals in the past year, through bad paperwork, theft or other factors.
• Animal euthanasia requires the signature of just one lead staff member.
• The county animal-
control officers are overwhelmed by the number of calls alleging animal cruelty and other issues.
Key recommendations• At least $500,000 should be spent on immediate renovations to the Kent shelter while a long-term solution is reached.
• Crossroads shelter should be closed or relocated.
• Close open sewer drain and install washer and dryer in Kent shelter.
• Improve record keeping and security of animal-control vehicles.
• Euthanasia should require two signatures and other animals should not see the procedure.
• Investigations of animal cruelty should be shifted to police departments.
• Provide daily spay/neuter service to shelter animals and free and low-cost spay/neuter service to pets owned by county residents.
A citizens advisory committee on Thursday blasted King County's two animal shelters, saying the dogs and cats are kept in "deplorable" conditions and suffer from high rates of disease, small cages and a lack of exercise and social contact.
The county's shelter in Bellevue's Crossroads neighborhood is "unsuitable for the sheltering of animals" and the larger shelter in Kent "has been badly neglected for many years, and is plainly inadequate to provide for the animals' most basic needs," according to the committee's report.
The committee recommended the immediate renovation of the two shelters, an overhaul of the county's animal-care policies, and the hiring of new employees, including a shelter-operations director and an animal-behavior expert.
Al Dams, acting manager for King County Animal Services, commended the committee's work but disagreed that the shelters are "deplorable."
The Kent facility is "old, but functional," Dams said. "It could use some upgrades. It's tired, and it could use specialized additions. It needs some welcoming touches."
Renovation work on that shelter already has begun.
County Councilmembers Julia Patterson, Dow Constantine, Larry Phillips and Bob Ferguson urged Executive Ron Sims in a letter to implement many of the committee's recommendations, including the shelter renovations and the policy overhaul.
"We have an absolute obligation to [the animals] to provide humane care, medical care, give them food and shelter, and to do everything in our power to give them a chance to be reunited with their families or placed in a safe and loving home," Constantine said in an interview. "We're not meeting that obligation."
The nine-person committee, made up of animal-welfare experts, was reactivated last spring by the Metropolitan King County Council to investigate the animals in the county's care.
The report said both shelters have outdated facilities, with overstretched employees who aren't trained or supervised well enough.
The Kent shelter, built in 1975, has an uncovered sewer drain running through several dogs' pens which could carry disease, the committee said. The shelter has rates of canine parvovirus and feline upper-respiratory infections that are higher than other local shelters, according to the report.
The Crossroads shelter, which opened in 1997, was designed to be temporary, has little space for dogs and appears to be staffed by only one person at a time, the report also said.
Sims spokeswoman Carolyn Duncan said the county has been working to address some of the concerns brought up in the report. Besides starting work on a renovation of the Kent shelter, the county recently added a "pet of the week" link to feature adoptable animals on the county's home page, she said.
"We're reaching out to people like we never had," Duncan said. "We're concerned and we want the best for those animals and we are working towards that."
The King County Council passed an ordinance in May to reduce the number of animals being euthanized at the shelters and asked Sims to come up with a plan to implement a "no-kill" policy, Councilwoman Patterson said.
The ordinance also set a goal of reducing the number of euthanized animals to 20 percent by the end of 2008, and to 15 percent by the end of 2009.
Dams said 38 percent of the animals were euthanized last year. The two shelters take in more than 12,000 dogs and cats annually, he said.
According to Animal Services' 2006 annual report, all the animals that were euthanized were sick or vicious, and no adoptable pets were killed. In 1990, the euthanasia rate was 81 percent, and included adoptable cats and dogs.
The citizens advisory report criticized euthanasia practices at the shelter, noting that the decision to euthanize required the signature of just one lead staff member and that animal cages face the euthanization table, meaning other animals can see the procedure.
The report also cited 135 "lost" animals in the past year, through bad paperwork, theft or other factors.
The report recommends 37 changes to the county's Animal Services program, though the committee saved its strongest language for the shelters. The county's animal care is "well beneath the standards that should be expected in a prosperous, compassionate and generous community such as King County," the report says.
Dams said Animal Services should be able to implement many of the recommendations.
Renovations under way at the Kent shelter include reflooring, redoing the heating, remodeling the lobby and installing a new heating-and-ventilation system for the cat area.
Ashley Bach: 206-464-2567 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Times reporter Craig Welch contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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