A Spokane animal shelter under investigation by federal officials faces more problems: the resignation of nearly half its board of directors and the possible loss of its biggest contract.
The latest difficulties jeopardize the future of SpokAnimal CARE, which has picked up stray dogs and cats in the city for 13 years.
Spokane officials said Wednesday they are considering dropping the nonprofit organization as the city’s animal control agency. Spokane taxpayers currently provide the bulk of the shelter’s $500,000 annual budget.
Four members of the SpokAnimal board of directors resigned in the past week. Executive Director Gail Mackie said three of them told her they’d lost faith in her leadership.
“We could never get anything done around there because of the director,” said Shirley Alexander-Strahl, who walked away after last week’s board meeting. “It broke my heart to leave.”
Alexander-Strahl, who volunteered at the shelter for seven years and served as board treasurer and vice president, declined to elaborate further.
Toni Schmidt, who also quit the board last week, said Mackie was the problem.
Schmidt pointed out that seven board members have resigned since last summer. “That in itself tells you something’s going on,” she said.
Bruce Medeiros declined to discuss his reasons for leaving the board, and Carol Black could not be reached for comment.
Mackie, who called the resignations an “internal matter,” said they would not affect day-to-day operations at the agency.
She said several people interested in filling the openings on the nine-member board already have stepped forward. “I’ve gotten a lot of calls already,” she said.
Still, the resignations come at a bad time.
The U.S. attorney’s office is considering filing civil charges against the shelter for illegally obtaining prescription drugs.
A SpokAnimal employee is believed to have used the federal drug licenses of veterinarians who no longer work for the agency to order a female hormone substitute.
In addition, SpokAnimal’s contract with the city of Spokane is up for renewal later this spring.
“I don’t believe we have any problem with the city,” Mackie said. “This shouldn’t have any effect on our ability to fulfill the contract.”
Spokane currently pays SpokAnimal $65,000 per year plus a portion of all animal licenses sold within the city limits to pick up strays, investigate animal complaints and enforce the city’s animal ordinances.
The agency has a separate contract with the city to provide spay and neuter services.
City officials recently asked county Animal Control Director Nancy Sattin what it would cost for her department to patrol inside the city limits, said Dave Mandyke, assistant city manager.
“I wouldn’t say we’re dissatisfied (with SpokAnimal),” Mandyke said. “We’re just looking at our options.”
Sattin, who has worked for county animal control for over a decade, said she was surprised when city officials approached her. They haven’t done so in the past, she said.
“It’s always been a done deal with SpokAnimal,” said Sattin, adding she presented the idea to county commissioners, who are considering it.
Such a move would require substantial start-up money, Sattin said. “That would basically be doubling what we do now,” she said.
The county animal shelter in the Spokane Valley would need more staff and at least 80 additional kennels for stray dogs and cats, Sattin said.
The loss of the Spokane contract would be a large blow to SpokAnimal.
Half of the agency’s 22-member staff is assigned to the city, Mackie said. Losing the contract likely would mean layoffs, she said.
“That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have other options,” Mackie added. “We still have contracts with seven other cities.”
The city of Millwood recently dumped SpokAnimal in favor of county animal control.
Mayor Jeanne Batson said the City Council felt SpokAnimal wasn’t providing adequate services. “People would call them to pick up a mean dog or a stray dog, and no one would ever show up,” she said.
Airway Heights is considering changing to the county as well, Mayor Don Harmon said.
“I’ve heard pro and cons about SpokAnimal lately,” he said. “We’re going to study who’s the best. I’ve heard a lot of good about Spokane County Animal Control.”
Airway Heights Police Chief Jim Nettles resigned from the SpokAnimal board of directors last summer.