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Plan unifies pet agencies

In the near future, pet owners across Spokane County may have a single place to look for a lost dog, report a stray or inquire about pet registration.

Negotiations on a countywide animal control system are moving closer to an agreement that could go before elected leaders in Spokane, Spokane Valley and Spokane County. If enacted, the result could be more coordinated laws and adoption efforts across city boundaries – which animals tend to ignore when they get loose.

“It’s a lot easier for individuals that lose an animal to only have to check one place,” said Spokane Humane Society Executive Director Dave Richardson.

Under the proposal, Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) would handle animal control in Spokane, as it does in most of the county and through a contract with Spokane Valley. Lost pets, as well as stray and abandoned animals left at other shelters, would be brought to SCRAPS in Spokane Valley. SCRAPS could then enlist the Humane Society and SpokAnimal to help find homes for the most adoptable pets.

“This concept would really help place more animals,” Richardson said.

Though not new, the idea for a countywide system has come to the forefront as Spokane seeks a replacement for SpokAnimal after the group indicated two years ago that it would no longer provide animal control services.

The cost of temporary contracts with SpokAnimal has increased from $17,000 in December to $50,000 per month, which is close to estimates of what it would cost SCRAPS to do the work.

While Spokane leaders initially disagreed on whether it would make more sense to join SCRAPS or to start a city-led operation, John Pilcher, the city’s chief operating officer, sees promise in the cooperation so far and the prospect of creating a countywide system that meets the city’s needs.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to work on a regional program,” he said.

Expanding the SCRAPS shelter, hiring more animal control officers and buying vehicles and other equipment is expected to cost $3 million, SCRAPS Director Nancy Hill said.

Spokane would pick up the bill for that expansion, although Pilcher said he thinks the groups involved will be able to negotiate a lower cost.

It’s also possible that each municipality would still be able to set its own registration fees, which are currently higher in the city of Spokane.

By including Spokane and possibly some of the smaller towns and cities, SCRAPS’ budget and the number of people it serves would roughly double.

“Is there going to be economy of scale? That’s really going to be the question of the day,” Hill said.

It’s likely, she said, although that can’t be known for sure until the system has been operating for a year or more.

People involved in the project also expect a regional system would be more effective in persuading owners to register their pets, which offsets the cost of animal control.

Spokane Valley’s contract with SCRAPS would change little with the formation of a regional system, said Morgan Koudelka, who’s been working on the proposal on behalf of the city.

“Our main concern was that it did not increase the costs,” Koudelka said, adding that initial projections show a cost savings with a regional system.

Another benefit to the system could be consistent animal laws across jurisdictions, he said.

An advisory board could take up animal issues and help work out animal regulations and policies that could then be adopted in a consistent manner between the cities and the county.



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