Spokane police officers won’t have to double as dogcatchers after all.
With the planned consolidation of city and county animal control agencies on hold indefinitely, SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. has agreed to continue to function as the city’s pet licensor and shelter operator for up to five years.
“It isn’t going to happen this year, and we can’t let the animals down,” said Gail Mackie, SpokAnimal’s executive director. SpokAnimal has said it no longer wants to be in charge of animal control.
The Spokane City Council and Spokane County Commission agreed in 2008 to make the county’s animal control department, the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, a regional agency serving most places within county borders starting next year.
But the city never determined how to pay for an addition to the county’s shelter – a requirement of the agreement. In March, voters rejected a tax to expand SCRAPS. After that vote failed, city leaders said they didn’t know how they would proceed, and City Councilman Bob Apple suggested that the city might have to give up pet licensing requirements and that cops might have to take over animal control responsibilities the city is required to perform under state law.
Earlier this fall, Mayor Mary Verner sent SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. a letter requesting that the group continue performing animal control until the city expands the county’s shelter or a new regional shelter is built.
Mackie said the group still wants out of the business of animal control to focus on being a no-kill shelter. But without a solution finalized, SpokAnimal is willing to wait, she said.
The city pays SpokAnimal about $650,000 a year to perform animal control services, said Spokane Budget Director Tim Dunivant. In return the city receives a portion of the licensing fees SpokAnimal collects. Mackie said her group will send the city more than $200,000 for the city’s portion of 2009 pet license revenue.
SpokAnimal has said it will accept similar terms for next year, though it has requested about $65,000 extra to buy new vehicles. Because the city only recently expressed interest in continuing SpokAnimal’s services, the group did not plan to buy new trucks, Mackie said.
“We have no reason to buy trucks unless we do this contract,” Mackie said.
City Administrator Ted Danek said the city is working with County Commissioner Todd Mielke and other county officials to finish creating a regional animal control. He said it’s possible a tax proposal to pay for a new county shelter could appear on ballots sometime next year.
“This gives us some breathing time,” Danek said.