The Spokesman-Review


WEDNESDAY, JAN. 27, 2010

City, county must join forces for the animals

The city of Spokane and SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. are beginning to look like a couple trapped in a failed marriage. They’ve been drifting apart for a decade, yet there they were this week, extending their animal control relationship another two years.

Two years – that’s how long it’s been since the Spokane City Council decided to turn animal control responsibilities over to the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, commonly known as SCRAPS. As part of the deal the city would have to pay for a $4 million expansion of the county shelter.

SpokAnimal was happy to give up the role it had played for some 20 years. It wanted to concentrate on finding homes for strays.

Problem is, voters defeated a bond issue that was supposed to pay for the shelter-expansion project. With no backup plan, the city turned again to a reluctant SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. Now, under an agreement approved this week by SpokAnimal’s board and the City Council, the nonprofit agency will keep doing the job it doesn’t want.

The uncomfortable necessity is evidence of something we’ve believed for a long time. Regional issues need regional governance, and animal control is a natural candidate.

That, of course, is where the City Council was headed with its 2008 decision, but it was short-sighted to count on voter approval of a ballot measure, which also included $14 million for various police facilities, to make it happen.

From the sidelines, Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke has raised the idea of a countywide bond issue – not to enlarge the county animal shelter but to build a new regional one that he says will be needed in a few years anyway. A county bond issue may pose the same risk that stymied the city, but regionalism is the right approach.

However it’s funded, a regional system offers efficiencies, cost savings and enforcement consistency. Voters have rejected an outright merger of city and county government, but interagency agreements have worked well between the two governments. Animal control could be another. We hope the city and county will use the coming two years to make it happen.

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