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Shelter can euthanize sooner

Unlicensed cats have no grace period

Unlicensed cats in Spokane with no identification can be euthanized as soon as they enter the city animal shelter.

The Spokane City Council on Monday voted 6-0 to end the city’s three-day required holding time for cats. Although the city ordinance required a delay in euthanizing cats, the city’s contract with SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. did not hold the group to the same policy.

SpokAnimal officials said after the meeting they euthanize many feral cats soon after they enter the shelter and before the three days is up.

Council members said the change was needed, in part, because of cat overpopulation. SpokAnimal earlier reported that only two of the 566 cats it handled in June were reclaimed by owners.

The new rule adds protections for domesticated cats. The ordinance creates a five-day holding requirement for unlicensed cats that have microchips or an identifying tag. It also stipulates that domesticated, healthy cats that can’t be identified “will be held as long as feasible.” Licensed cats are held for 10 days before they can be euthanized, a period that was not changed in Monday’s vote.

“If money was no object we would hold them forever,” said Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin. “I think we’ve struck a good happy medium.”

Dave Richardson, executive director of the Spokane Humane Society, expressed concern about the change.

Many folks have cats that spend a lot of time outside. They wouldn’t think much about a cat not showing up for a day or two, he said, adding that microchips occasionally are missed when a pet is scanned and that cats sometimes lose their collars.

“This ordinance is really going to require people to act,” Richardson said. “This is a living, breathing, loving animal. We need to be the voice of the voiceless.”

Responding to concerns raised in public testimony, Councilman Richard Rush successfully amended the rules to prohibit SpokAnimal from transferring dead animals to rendering plants.

“These pets are ground up and fed to cows and pigs and those animals are being eaten by us,” said Kelly Tansy, who volunteers for Animal Advocates of the Inland Northwest. “This is outrageous.”

After the meeting, Tansy said he was unaware that SpokAnimal stopped the use of rendering earlier this year, but was happy the amendment was added to prevent the practice from occurring again.

McLaughlin was the lone vote against the amendment. She said it appeared unnecessary because SpokAnimal had stopped the practice.

Until April, SpokAnimal took dead pets to Baker Commodities Inc., a local rendering plant, because it was cheaper than cremation, said Laura Thulean, SpokAnimal’s operations director. SpokAnimal opted to start cremating animals because Baker stopped accepting domesticated animals, she said.

Among the other large animal welfare agencies in Spokane County, the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service and the Humane Society have long used cremation to dispose of euthanized pets.

Council members stressed that pet owners must take responsibility for their dogs and cats by getting them microchipped and licensed.

“You just can’t hold them forever,” said Councilman Michael Allen. “Make sure you get your cat registered, so the system can help get your cat back to you.”

Jonathan Brunt can be reached at jonathanb@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5442.

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