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Originally published April 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 11, 2008 at 12:35 AM

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King County animal-control truce calls for euthanizing fewer pets

After weeks of feuding over animal shelters, Metropolitan King County Council leaders and County Executive Ron Sims have agreed on a plan...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Monday meeting

The Metropolitan King County Council will hold a town-hall meeting on animal shelters and animal control at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Highline Performing Arts Center, 401 S. 152nd St., Burien. A pet-adoption fair outside the arts center will start at 5:30. Only certified service animals will be allowed inside the building.

After weeks of feuding over animal shelters, Metropolitan King County Council leaders and County Executive Ron Sims have agreed on a plan aimed at increasing animal adoptions and reducing the number of dogs and cats killed at the shelters.

"We can do a heck of a lot better," Sims said at a news conference Thursday with council Chairwoman Julia Patterson and Vice Chairman Dow Constantine.

The three announced a $965,000 plan to bring in more part-time veterinarians and hire other staff members to care for animals, step up adoption efforts and work with volunteers. The money also would buy more dog kennels and cat cages to ease crowding.

While those short-term changes are being made, long-term plans for the shelters would be developed and a consultant would "shadow" shelter staff members and report his or her observations to policymakers.

The long-term plans, to be completed in August, will help the council decide whether the county Animal Care and Control agency should be managed through the current chain of command, reorganized or at least partially outsourced.

Sims and the council members said the agreement means the county will spay or neuter more pets, find homes for more abandoned or stray animals, crack down on animal cruelty and reduce euthanasia rates next year to 15 percent of the animals that enter the shelters in Kent and Bellevue.

"The three of us believe that the people of King County are compassionate people and they expect us to move forward in this direction," Patterson said.

The agreement — which requires County Council approval — ends weeks of confrontation between the executive and council following a consultant's devastating report on shelter conditions. Sims said a breakthrough came when he met with Patterson in his office and the two asked their staff members to leave while they talked privately.

"We just decided that warring sides for animal control didn't make a lick of sense," Sims said.

Constantine said the county's goal is "that we do not kill animals that should be adopted out." The exceptions, he said, are animals that are too aggressive or too ill to be adopted.

Two members of a citizens advisory committee that last fall called shelter conditions "deplorable" praised the agreement Thursday.

Claire Davis, president of the Coalition for a No Kill King County, said the goal of ending unnecessary animal deaths was "a wonderful first step. Obviously there's still much to do."

Derek Yoshinaka, a Kent shelter volunteer who opposed setting a low euthanasia target without hiring more staff members to meet the goal, said, "Now that they're saying, we're going to give you some people and some resources to try to reach it, I think that's a reasonable goal to shoot for."

The plan would draw money from capital funds and an existing Animal Care Benefit Fund.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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