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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pet peeve: Animal pact costly to city

After a push to collect more fines from people who don’t license their pets failed to significantly offset the cost of the area’s animal control program, the city of Spokane Valley plans to review and possibly modify its contract with Spokane County for animal control services.

“Were getting a very good service, and we’re paying a whole lot of money for it,” Councilman Mike DeVleming said Tuesday at a joint meeting of the City Council and the Spokane County commission Tuesday.

With less than half the population of its larger neighbor, Spokane Valley pays roughly the same amount for animal control – about $1,000 per day – as the city of Spokane, which contracts with SpokAnimal C.A.R.E., not the county.

Two years ago the Spokane County Regional Animal Control and Protection Services (SCRAPS), which administers the contract, began a campaign to register more animals. It was based on a successful program in Calgary, Alberta, that relied on heavy fines to help bring people into compliance.

Councilman Dick Denenny said that Calgary spends less of its general fund on animal control than Spokane Valley because it routinely collects more registration fees, and fines hundreds of dollars for loose pets and other violations.

“You are going to pay for what it takes to own animals in an urban environment,” Denenny said.

Calgary’s 90 percent compliance rate with pet laws hasn’t happened in Spokane Valley, though. With costs staying high, the council is taking a second look at its contract and how much city money it should invest in animal control.

The city can’t justify forgoing road projects to take care of animals, Councilman Steve Taylor said. It needs to look into increasing compliance or finding alternative animal control measures that fit within the budget, he said.

Commissioner Phil Harris acknowledged that the city might find animal control services available for less money. But, he warned, if the county cuts the size of its program, it won’t increase it again if the city changes its mind.

Both the city and the county agreed to look into exactly what services the city is getting in the contract, such as the number of animal complaints SCRAPS responds to in a given period of time.

Modifying the existing contract to reduce some services in Spokane Valley would be challenging, said Commissioner Mark Richard. But if the city finds specific areas of the contract it wants to change, the county would be willing to talk about them.

Later this year, the city will review its animal control contract with the county. In a few weeks, SCRAPS director Nancy Hill will make a presentation to the City Council while the council begins to define its goals for animal control.

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