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Animal control options limited

City, county still hope to merge shelters

Almost two years after completing an agreement hailed as the solution to Spokane’s ongoing animal control problem, leaders again are debating how to regionalize dog and cat licensing and other pet services.

A plan to combine city and county animal control derailed last year after city of Spokane voters rejected a tax to expand Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service’s shelter on Flora Road as well as other public safety requests.

Public Works Director Dave Mandyke said the city has asked the county to consider placing a $14 million bond on the county’s ballot this year to build a new shelter to serve city and county residents.

Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke said a countywide tax may be in the best interests of city and county residents in the long run because it would salvage a regionalization plan expected to cut annual operations costs. He added that expanding SCRAPS’ shelter may not have made much sense because it’s not connected to sewers and will soon need new mechanical and other upgrades.

“Personally, my gut tells me it’s something we should be looking at,” Mielke said. “Sometimes when you combine some of these services, there’s an initial investment you have to make to get it done.”

Mielke said a $14 million tax could be paid over six years at a cost of $14 a year to the owner of a $200,000 home.

County Commissioner Mark Richard, however, said he “can’t support” a shelter tax. He said taxes for a new jail should take priority over a bond for animal control.

Richard agreed with Mielke that SCRAPS’ shelter will need upgrades soon, but added: “Although it’s not perfect and it needs improvements, it will do for now.”

The Spokane City Council agreed to join SCRAPS, the county-run animal control agency that also is used by Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and other towns, in 2008. But without the money for a new or expanded SCRAPS shelter, the Spokane City Council is asking its current contractor, the nonprofit SpokAnimal C.A.R.E., to continue performing animal control. SpokAnimal, which is working to become a no-kill shelter, has said it no longer wants to do animal control.

SpokAnimal late last year agreed to continue providing animal control. But it proposed a contract that would have increased in cost by 5 percent annually. The Spokane City Council balked at 5 percent increases, but when SpokAnimal responded with a deal that the city estimated would cost even more, Spokane officials said they could accept a two-year deal with a 5 percent increase in 2011.

Gail Mackie, SpokAnimal’s executive director, said Friday that the agency’s board will decide whether to accept the council’s recent proposal by Monday morning. If they do, the City Council is expected to vote on the contract Monday night.

Mackie said the agency must be fairly compensated to maintain a service that it had planned to discontinue but added that SpokAnimal will be reasonable.

“SpokAnimal’s not going to let the animals suffer,” Mackie said.

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