SpokAnimal C.A.R.E. has done the equivalent of leaving out a dish of food, hoping to entice the city of Spokane to return.
The nonprofit animal agency has proposed to the Spokane City Council a 10-year animal control agreement for slightly less than what the city would pay for the next seven years if it joins, as planned, Spokane County’s animal control system.
The formal offer comes less than two months before a public vote that would provide up to $15 million to build a new county animal shelter. For more than two decades, the need for a new shelter has been the sticking point in plans for a regional animal control service.
SpokAnimal has provided animal control for the city of Spokane since 1984, but told the city about five years ago that it no longer wanted to perform the service so it could focus on becoming a no-kill shelter. Since then, the city has worked to partner with Spokane County’s animal control agency, the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service.
County Commissioner Todd Mielke questioned the timing of SpokAnimal’s proposal.
“Where has this offer been for the last three years?” Mielke said.
But SpokAnimal Executive Director Gail Mackie said SpokAnimal has expressed an interest in sticking with the city since 2007.
“We have been indicating in our meetings with city staff that we were interested” in continuing a long-term contract, Mackie said. “Apparently, that information didn’t get back to the people who make the decisions.”
However, Mayor Mary Verner in a news conference on Sept. 1 and city administrators in a City Council meeting last month acknowledged that SpokAnimal had indicated a willingness to continue to provide animal control service.
“Our partners at SpokAnimal have been fully aware that we were committed to that regional approach,” Verner said at the news conference.
Voters will be asked to authorize a levy up to 5.8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for a maximum of nine years to build a new animal control shelter large enough to house a regional operation, near Havana Street and Broadway Avenue. By using a city-owned building for the shelter, county officials believe they will be able to reduce the levy to slightly more than 4 cents per $1,000, cancel it after six years, or some combination.
Verner was not willing to join a regional system until county leaders were able to assure that the city wouldn’t have to pay more than it currently pays SpokAnimal, about $560,000 a year, plus the cost of inflation. That deal would last seven years. The Spokane City Council voted last month to endorse Verner’s position.
SpokAnimal is now offering a yearly rate of $540,000 for 10 years.
The mayor said she believes having a central location that services the full county will provide better service to all citizens.
“We have participated with the specific goal of finding a way for having all jurisdictions to have more cost-effective animal control facilities and services,” Verner said at the news conference.
City Administrator Ted Danek said Verner hasn’t reviewed SpokAnimal’s offer.
“We are quite far down the path and are committed to joining SCRAPS,” Danek said. “Having said that, we consider this a serious offer that we’ll have to look at.”
The letter, written by Mackie and SpokAnimal’s board president, Christel Carlson, pointed to a meeting the group had with county officials.
“At a meeting with the SpokAnimal Board of Directors, Commissioner Mielke stated several times that SCRAPS is not interested in adopting animals. This took Board members by surprise and he was asked to clarify this statement several times,” Mackie and Carlson wrote.
SCRAPS Director Nancy Hill said SpokAnimal officials misunderstood what Mielke told them. She said adoption is a huge priority for her organization, and that Mielke was offering SpokAnimal and the Spokane Humane Society a chance to partner with it in a regional system to assist in animal adoptions.
Bob Anderlik, president of the Animal Advocates of the Inland Northwest, defended SCRAPS and said he strongly supports the creation of a regional system led by the county. Anderlik, who stressed that he was speaking for himself and not necessarily his organization, said the county runs a far superior operation.
“There’s no comparison between SCRAPS and SpokAnimal,” he said.
Dave Richardson, executive director of the Spokane Humane Society, said he supports the concept of a single regional animal control agency led by either the county or SpokAnimal.
“A single animal control facility caring for strays would greatly increase the number of animals being returned to their owners,” he said. “I also believe that the euthanasia levels would be reduced greatly.”
He added that even if the regionalism doesn’t occur, the county is in need of a new shelter. The society’s animal welfare committee has recommended that the society endorse the county ballot measure. The society’s board will vote next week on that recommendation.
SpokAnimal officials say that with nearly 30 years of experience running the city’s animal control operations, it’s the best group to keep performing the service.
“This is a firm bid; there will be no surprises with our contract or our service. And best of all: NO NEW TAXES, BOND ISSUES OR TAKING FROM OTHER PROGRAMS,” Mackie and Carlson’s letter says.