The Spokesman-Review


Editorial: History isn’t helping hope for shelter cooperation

It’s great news that a handful of local governments are talking earnestly about establishing a regional animal shelter, but high fives are probably premature.

After all, conversations about a regional animal control system in Spokane County go back to a previous century, and probably the biggest obstacle to making it happen has been the need for an adequate facility. Or, more precisely, the cost of meeting that need.

Last year Spokane voters turned down a bond issue that included more than $4million to pay for a needed expansion of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service shelter on North Flora Road. That outcome torpedoed a city-county deal to turn the city’s animal control services over to the county.

Such an arrangement is the obvious solution to the city’s stubborn animal control challenges. As early as 1998, then-Mayor Jack Geraghty called it a promising answer to a situation in which SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. wanted out of the city’s pet policing work.

A uniform, countywide animal control system has substantial advantages for a service that deals with independent-minded animals that have no respect for or awareness of political dividing lines. But it requires adequate facilities, and the SCRAPS shelter – already used by Spokane County, Liberty Lake, Spokane Valley, Millwood, Cheney and Fairchild Air Force Base – is at capacity. If the city of Spokane does join up, SCRAPS officials say, it would provide about half the demand.

Because of the current shelter’s location, however, simple expansion isn’t a satisfying strategy, officials say. That seems to necessitate construction of a new shelter, and estimates for that are around $15million. Neither conducting another bond election nor dipping into existing revenues (existing revenues?) is particularly appealing.

Yet the daunting cost issue is what leaders from Spokane, Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and Spokane County will be focusing on in an analysis to be conducted over the next two months. Then they’ll reconvene and find out if they can work the kind of magic that has escaped them for more than a decade.

Hats off to SpokAnimal, which has heroically continued to perform the city job it has been saying, since the ’90s, that it wants to drop. Surely, Spokane city leaders realize that the nonprofit organization’s acquiescence can’t continue forever.

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said recently that if the opportunity for cooperation isn’t seized now, the community will still be wondering half a century down the road why it was squandered. She’s right.

As we’ve noted numerous times before, animal control is a regional problem that requires a regional solution. Here’s hoping the next 60 days produce a reasonable agreement that will allow the high fives to begin.

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