“Dangerous dogs” letter from Humane Society of Seattle riddled with inaccuracies

Though billed as an opinion piece about dangerous dog legislation, the letter, “Think before creating dangerous dog laws,” written by the Humane Society of Seattle’s (HSS) CEO in the July 10 edition was riddled with inaccuracies and timeworn allegations about long-corrected facility upgrades needed at King County Animal Care and Control’s (KCACC) shelters.

Public safety is part of our mandate under the King County Charter and our No. 1 priority.

Calls from the public are prioritized to gauge the threat level and seriousness so that officers can respond quickly to all reports of dogs running loose and acting aggressively. KCACC did not receive any prior calls about the dogs in Sea-Tac before they attacked. The allegation that we will only respond after a dog bites is simply false. Aggressive dog calls will always take priority over loose animals. In fact, we responded to the Sea-Tac attack in only 15 minutes. Bottom line – if you are in the nearly 2,200 square mile service area of KCACC, we will be there for you.

Our animal control officers respond to more than 11,000 calls annually from the public and along with shelter staff, care for more than 10,000 homeless and abandoned animals each year. We feed, nurture, care for and try to find forever homes for each one.

We take the lost and stray animals that would be turned away by the HSS or private shelters for not being cute or “adoptable” enough. In reality, while the Humane Society criticized our sites and care, their staffers regularly “shop” for the best pets at public shelters like KCACC to adopt from their own facility at a considerably higher cost to families.

Our 2008 adoption rates have met the King County Council mandate of 80 percent adoption or placement rate and only 20 percent euthanasia, which is commendable. We are on track to meet the 85 percent adoption goal set by the council for 2009. We cannot compare our rates to the Humane Society of Seattle because as a private organization, they are not required to and do not make their numbers public.

Both KCACC and HSS run shelter facilities that are more than 30 years old. However, in 2008, KCACC added a new, bright, spacious cat adoption building with new large stainless steel cages, lots of sunlight and music for the pets and prospective adopters to enjoy. We also follow the highest cleaning and care standards set by the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. These facility and operational improvements have created more and efficient space throughout the shelter for the animals, staff and the public.

Ms. Barnette’s allegations about conditions at the shelter are simply not based in current reality and reflect the most negative aspects of a two-year-old report King County commissioned to identify opportunities for self improvement. Since then, the shelters have undergone more than 100 improvements, with more underway while staff and volunteers continue to work tirelessly to provide optimal care and comfort for the homeless animals that depend on us every day.

Although the letter criticized our outreach, King County’s employees and volunteers organize adoption events frequently around the county and advertise in the media. We have partnered with numerous new foster parents to provide temporary loving homes for animals in our care until they are adopted.

The HSS suggestion that there should be no legislation if the laws are not completely enforceable is not based in real world studies and facts. Dangerous dog legislation has been shown in multiple studies to be more effective than to have no laws at all.

As an agency concerned with animal well-being and public safety, we thank the King County Council for attempting to pass well-considered, non-breed specific dangerous dog legislation. We will continue to work with the public, law enforcement and partner agencies in these difficult economic times to share resources, help enforce all animal-related laws and safeguard public safety while providing quality care for King County’s abandoned animals.

Carolyn Ableman

Director, King County Records and Licensing Division