December 7, 2013 in Washington Voices

Fairfield signs animal control contract with SCRAPS

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Shelter manager Cindy Taskila, left, looks for an available animal for new employees, at right, to practice their dog handling skills at SCRAPS.
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Fairfield has become the first small Spokane County town to approve a contract with the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service as the organization launches a bid to become a regional animal control service provider.

SCRAPS handles unincorporated Spokane County, Cheney, Millwood, Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake. It takes over animal control for the city of Spokane on Jan. 1 and plans to open a new regional animal shelter in May.

SCRAPS has hired about 25 new people, said Director Nancy Hill. About three-quarters of those are full-time employees.

Hill has been contacting all the small towns, many of which have contracts with SpokAnimal, to get them to sign up with her organization. “Fairfield is the first to actually commit, so it’s very exciting,” she said. “Medical Lake and Deer Park are very interested.”

The towns all have similar contracts with SpokAnimal. Any calls for service have to be routed through City Hall and the town pays each time someone from SpokAnimal comes out. The sticking point is that SpokAnimal employees have no authority to enforce animal control laws. They do not have commissions through the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office as the SCRAPS officers do.

“They didn’t really have authority to do a whole lot or do what we needed them to do,” Fairfield Mayor Pro Tem Brian Kauffman said of SpokAnimal. “It was costing us money for them to come out and they couldn’t do anything for us.”

The vote to hire SCRAPS was unanimous, Kauffman said. “They can take care of abused or neglected animals, virtually any animal complaint we might have,” he said.

Fairfield’s cost is $1,176 annually, for the first three years, based on population. “We’re already paying that, actually,” Kauffman said. “It’s a wash, to be honest with you.”

SpokAnimal is largely getting out of the animal control business and will focus on its veterinary clinic and animal adoptions, said SpokAnimal Director Gail Mackie. She said her organization plans to maintain dog-only contracts with Airway Heights, Medical Lake and Fairchild Air Force Base. “Those are the three we are staying with,” Mackie said. “It’s just a handful of dogs a year.”

Other than bringing the ability to issue criminal citations, the new contract also allows residents to call SCRAPS directly when they have an animal problem. “It will work out well for the citizens,” Kauffman said. “I think we’re providing a better service.”

The agreement will go to Spokane County commissioners for their approval on Tuesday.

Fairfield is so excited about the new agreement that they’ve already contacted SCRAPS to ask for help with a recent dog complaint. Hill said she had to reluctantly turn them down. “We would love to, but we don’t have a signed interlocal (agreement) and the start date is set at Jan. 1,” she said. “We really can’t start before the agreement takes effect.”

The cities currently using SCRAPS pay a rate based on their calls for service. No such information exists for the small towns, however, so they will pay a rate based on population for the first three years with no annual increases. Towns with populations less than 500 people will pay the minimum rate of $1,000 per year. “We’re offering these contracts to our new customers for three years,” Hill said. “We’re just going to lock them in. The small cities are so small, in the grand scheme of things.”

After the first three years the rates will take calls for service into consideration. Each new client will be served by the SCRAPS shelter and be able to take advantage of the various programs. Pet licenses will be available through SCRAPS, which will keep the revenue they generate.

“We’ll do everything for them and they like the idea of that,” Hill said. “They are all looking for solutions and they like the idea of an organization that can provide 24/7 service and provide full service.”

Hill plans to make her pitch to the Rockford City Council later this month. Latah is considering a contract and Hill has also reached out to Waverly and Spangle. Only Airway Heights has not expressed interest in hearing a presentation on what SCRAPS has to offer, Hill said.

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