The Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service will soon lose its after-hours animal receiving room, but it was a lucky break for five animals one day last week that the room was still open for business.
The drop-off room has six cages, each with a bed or rug to lie on and a bowl of water. A clipboard of blank forms hangs on the wall. People are asked to fill in any information they know about the animal when they drop it off. SCRAPS director Nancy Hill said animals are there every morning; on one recent morning there were four cats and one dog, but the dog would not be staying long.
“The dog had identification,” Hill said. “It had a microchip, it had a city license and a name tag.”
But it isn’t always that way. Two of the cats did not have a form filled out and are a mystery. The other two were dropped off by someone who said the cats had to go because of an allergy. One was described as a “sweet cat,” the other as extremely gentle and good with children.
Those two cats are part of the reason the after-hours drop-off is closing. Since SCRAPS has the only after-hours room in several counties, people drop off animals from all over. People also drop off their pets to avoid paying the release fee of $20 per cat and $40 per dog incurred when someone voluntarily gives up a pet. Whoever dropped the two cats off should have paid SCRAPS $40 to help pay for their care while up for adoption.
SCRAPS provides services to most cities in Spokane County and to unincorporated Spokane County. They cannot afford to take animals from other counties or states. “I’ve heard some pretty strange stories over the years about people sneaking in here to drop animals off,” she said.
Hill said her staff once found a cat in the drop-off with a note that said “I found this cat in Colville and no one will take it.”
As of last week a total of 1,969 animals had been dropped off after hours this year. There was no paperwork filled out for 886 of those, which can create a problem. “We don’t know if it has a history of aggression,” Hill said.
But the primary reason the after-hours receiving room will be closing is a lack of space. The agency got approval from the Spokane County Commissioners to add a modular office building to the site as a temporary fix to the lack of space problem while the agency explores moving to a new location. It was then discovered that increasing the square footage would trigger a requirement for a new fire hydrant in front of the building. Drilling under nearby railroad tracks to install the hydrant is cost prohibitive, Hill said.
Something still had to be done, however. “We’ve outgrown this building,” Hill said. “We’ve reached the point of critical mass. People are practically working in closets and doorways.”
A plan was hatched to do some reconfiguring without adding square footage. Staff will be tossing anything they don’t need and consolidating storage as much as possible. The current temperament testing room will become office space and the after-hours receiving room will become the temperament testing room. Each animal has its temperament tested before being put up for adoption.
Hill said she has been resisting getting rid of the receiving room for some time. “It was kind of the best thing and the worst thing we’ve ever done,” she said. She hopes the change will make people more accountable and eliminate the problem of getting animals from out of the area. But Hill is also afraid about what might happen to the animals. She doesn’t want to come to work in the morning to find animals tied to the fence or a box of kittens left by the front door. “We don’t really know what’s going to happen,” she said. “I’m wondering about that.”
The after-hours receiving room is expected to close in mid-January, though an exact date hasn’t been set yet, said Hill. When that happens, the shelter will adjust its operating hours so it will be open six days a week instead of five. The shelter will only be closed on Sundays and on those days an animal control officer will be on call if people call to report finding a stray.