Citizens speak on controversial animal shelters

Nearly 700 people attended a town hall meeting Monday to discuss the embattled King County animal shelter system, with dozens speaking their piece before the County Council.

  • Monday, June 2, 2008 12:11pm
  • News
At a meeting Monday for discussion of proposed improvements of King County’s animal shelters

At a meeting Monday for discussion of proposed improvements of King County’s animal shelters

Nearly 700 people attended a town hall meeting Monday to discuss the embattled King County animal shelter system, with dozens speaking their piece before the County Council.

Organized by the council as a means of getting feedback from citizens, the meeting took place at the Highline Performing Arts Center in Burien.

A total of 74 people spoke in regard to joint proposals released the previous week by County Executive Ron Sims and the council. One of those proposals calls for the county to spend an additional $965,000 for its animal services care and control division this year, while the other speaks to development of a long-term master plan for improving the agency’s two shelters.

One shelter, whose service area includes Covington and Maple Valley, is in Kent, and the other is in Bellevue.

Funding for the improvements would include $570,000 from a county animal-benefit fund that has grown for more than 20 years from public donations.

The rest of the money would come from the county’s capital improvement budget.

No date has been set for when the council will vote on the proposals for additional funding and formation of a master-plan task force. If approved, the task force would be slated to have its report completed by this August.

The council is considering major changes in the shelter system since receiving critical reports by consultant Nathan Winograd in March and by a citizens’ advisory committee last October. Winograd reported that “the county has failed for more than a decade to take the necessary steps to reform the shelters.” The advisory committee called shelter conditions “deplorable.”

“The short relief will not solve the long-term challenges,” Councilman Dow Constantine told the crowd Monday. “We need a blueprint to move forward. We want a model with the highest care where no animal with a chance to recover should be killed, period. That will be our standard.”

That statement drew applause from the audience, as did a puppy brought to the meeting by Councilman Reagan Dunn, who said his family in Maple Valley adopted it from a shelter in Yakima.

But not all the crowd’s reaction was positive.

Several volunteers from the county shelters spoke out against some of the funding proposals that Sims is outlining for this year. One of those expenditures is to hire a consultant to oversee improvements to the shelter system.

“You’re spending $85,000 for a consultant. That’s wrong,” said Doug Parker, a volunteer at the shelter in Bellevue. Parker added more money should be spent on shelter medical programs to help animals, rather than on an official.

Shelby Russell-Diaz, a county animal control officer, said, “We’re lacking resources and training. Don’t throw more money at consultants to tell you something we’ve been telling you for 20 years.”

A few citizens told the council they’re concerned what would happen if the county got out of the shelter business, as the council has said is possible, and instead contracted with a private agency for animal services.

Derek Yoshinaka, a Kent resident and volunteer at the county’s shelter in that city, wanted to know what would happen to the dogs he said are rejected by animal-rescue groups as too tough to adopt, if a private agency takes over the shelters and only accepts adoptable dogs. As a public shelter, the county accepts all dogs and cats. Private agencies also usually charge a fee to take an animal, he said.

“You need to keep open a no-fee facility to give animals a chance,” Yoshinaka said.

Other speakers claimed the county rarely prosecutes animal-cruelty cases because of a lack of training and a lack of officers who focus on cruelty cases.

“We want animal cops in King County like they have in other parts of the country,” said Susan Michaels, founder of animal welfare group Pasado’s Safe Haven of Sultan. “Train, train and train. Put money in the budget for cruelty investigations.”

Kathy Lang, who runs Family Dog Training Center in Kent, testified in favor of replacing the county’s shelters with new ones.

Several speakers debated whether animals have received humane treatment in the shelters. Many shelter volunteers praised the work of the shelter employees, while a couple other volunteers claimed animals had suffered because of a lack of proper medical treatment and argued it might be better for a private agency to run the facilities.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@covingtonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.covingtonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

This screenshot from Auburn Police Department bodycam footage shows an officer about to fire his weapon and kill dog on May 13, 2022.
Auburn police shoot dog, and owner claims it wasn’t justified

See videos of attack as well as bodycam footage of officer firing at dog.

File photo.
King County Council approves creation of Cannabis Safety Taskforce amid rash of dispensary robberies

The multi-agency task force will cooperate to find ways to improve safety in the cash-only industry.

U.S. Department of Justice logo.
Renton man sentenced for killing of woman in Olympic National Forest

Authorities say the he brutally beat to death the California woman who he was having an affair with.

Screenshot from ORCA website
New ORCA system launches for regional transit across the Puget Sound

Overhaul includes new website, mobile application and digital business account manager.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 4): Foster mom wants accountability in Auburn cop’s upcoming murder trial

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

Diane Renee Erdmann and Bernard Ross Hansen. Photos courtesy of FBI
FBI arrests Auburn couple after 11-day manhunt

The couple was previously convicted for fraud and skipped sentencing on April 29.

FILE PHOTO: King County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Dozens of King County Sheriff’s Office employees left jobs instead of getting vaccinated

This added on to the existing number of vacancies in the department.

Environmental microbiologist Dr. Natalie Prystajecky with some of her staff members at the BC Centre for Disease Control. Photo: Submitted
Wastewater testing for COVID-19 coming to Interior Health

Testing can tell whether cases are rising or falling in a community

King County logo
King County audit finds backlog of property tax exemption applications for seniors, people with disabilities, and disabled veterans

The auditors found that program expansions lead to three-times the amount of applications.

Most Read