August 9, 2012 in Washington Voices

Decision has regional reach

Cost of animal control services not only factor Spokane Valley weighing
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Two local agencies are in a fight to determine who will provide animal control services to the city of Spokane Valley, but the results could reach a lot further than the city limits.

Spokane Valley has contracted with the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service since it incorporated in 2003. Spokane County is looking to relocate SCRAPS and wants to offer services to Spokane Valley and the city of Spokane under a regional model, in part to share the cost of renovating a new building.

But as the jurisdictions moved toward a decision, SpokAnimal announced it was also interested in providing animal control services to Spokane and Spokane Valley. SpokAnimal currently has a short-term contract with Spokane.

Both Spokane and Spokane Valley recently put out a request for proposals for animal control. SpokAnimal and SCRAPS submitted proposals to the cities, both of which are scheduled to make a decision by the end of the month.

If the Spokane Valley City Council only looks at the price tag, SpokAnimal comes out ahead. It is proposing an annual rate of $250,000 if Spokane leaves SpokAnimal, $216,000 if Spokane stays. SCRAPS proposes charging $295,000 a year, which includes a new building, if Spokane joins the group. If Spokane stays with SpokAnimal, the county would charge Spokane Valley a rate based on use.

Several council members have indicated that price isn’t the only factor. The size of SpokAnimal’s facility, which has 30 fewer dog cages than SCRAPS, has been mentioned. The level of service, ability to enforce regulations and professionalism have also been discussed. The fact that SCRAPS’ proposed new location is in Spokane Valley could also be a plus.

The proposals submitted point out some key differences between the organizations. SCRAPS officers are commissioned by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office while SpokAnimal officers are commissioned by the Spokane Police Department.

SCRAPS officers are required to have two years of animal handling experience before being hired while SpokAnimal officers are not. In 2011 SpokAnimal’s live release rate was 58.61 percent; the live release rate at SCRAPS was 77.96 percent. Live release refers to animals that are returned to their owners, adopted or transferred to another facility.

A member of the Spokane Valley City Council recently questioned why SpokAnimal spent $40,000 more than it earned in 2011. SpokAnimal executive director Gail Mackie said the overage was due to one-time expenses for renovation. “They were upgrades that needed to be done,” she said.

There has also been discussion on how committed SpokAnimal is to offering animal control services since the organization told Spokane a couple of years ago that it was no longer interested in providing animal control services.

“I just wish we could put this thing to bed,” Mackie said. “The contract was not covering our costs. Rather than using donor dollars for animal control, we told them we didn’t want to do animal control anymore.”

Since then, Spokane has increased the amount it pays and there is no problem providing animal control, Mackie said.

Both agencies submitted letters of reference. A letter written on behalf of SCRAPS by Liberty Lake veterinarian Mark Fosberg included unfavorable comments about SpokAnimal, which previously contracted with the city of Liberty Lake. Fosberg complained that SpokAnimal officers were often late picking up animals and didn’t respond to phone calls. “We finally had to stop any dealing with that agency due to poor performance, lack of professionalism and outright rudeness of officers and volunteers,” Fosberg wrote.

Mackie said it has been several years since her organization contracted with Liberty Lake for services. “I don’t know anything about any of those situations,” she said. “I can tell you he didn’t talk to me about any of those things.”

Nicole Montano, SCRAPS operations manager said that no matter what the cities decide, SCRAPS will remain committed to providing services to the cities it contracts with. “We’d still be there,” she said.


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