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Monday, March 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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No-kill policy at SCRAPS could be codified in new contract

Kevin Vanhook, a behavior team member at SCRAPS engages Flick, a 2-year-old large breed male dog that has been with the shelter since January of 2019. Councilman Michael Cathcart successfully inserts language in city’s contract with SCRAPS to make sure it remains a no-kill shelter. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Kevin Vanhook, a behavior team member at SCRAPS engages Flick, a 2-year-old large breed male dog that has been with the shelter since January of 2019. Councilman Michael Cathcart successfully inserts language in city’s contract with SCRAPS to make sure it remains a no-kill shelter. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

When Spokane City Councilman Michael Cathcart adopted Jasmine from SCRAPS about three years ago, she had skin problems, tumors and other health issues.

The cat, which may have otherwise been destined for euthanasia, lived her final years in a loving household before she died last December.

On Monday, Jasmine was on Cathcart’s mind as he amended the city of Spokane’s proposed five-year contract with SCRAPS, the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, to codify its policy of operating as a no-kill shelter.

The shelter has already transitioned toward a no-kill shelter under the leadership of Regional Director Lindsey Soffes, and Cathcart wanted it reflected in the city’s new, formal agreement with the county-led shelter.

“I couldn’t vote for a contract and vote to give additional funding to a public agency that’s not a no-kill shelter,” Cathcart said. “Since the contract was up, I thought this was a good opportunity.”

Cathcart’s amendment was unanimously supported by his colleagues on the City Council, including Councilwoman Kate Burke, who helped him revise the agreement.

Soffes called the contract revision an “incredibly exciting development.”

The contract, which provides the city of Spokane with animal control services through 2025, will require ratification by the Spokane County Board of Commissioners.

The total cost of the agreement to the city is $670,451.

The no-kill language does not mean the shelter will never have to euthanize an animal. It specifically spells out the process by which an animal would be put down, either because it is experiencing untreatable severe pain or is a risk to other animals or people.

The decision to euthanize an animal must be made by an animal behavior specialist or a veterinarian and agreed to by the SCRAPS director.

The agreement also was amended to specify that the city, through its police department, and SCRAPS agree to a “priority response” when an animal is determined to be dangerous, meaning it is “not contained and poses an ongoing and imminent threat to the public.”

Soffes met with Cathcart prior to Monday’s City Council meeting and fully endorsed the contract amendment.

To Soffes, there is a clear distinction between killing and euthanizing an animal. Euthanasia, she said, “is an act of mercy.”

“We get animals in our care who are grievously injured, who are terminally ill or suffering, or pose threats to public safety as our law defines it, who we can not place,” Soffes said.

Since transitioning to a no-kill policy, SCRAPS has seen a higher shelter population, Soffes said, dismissing the rationale of harming one animal to protect, and make space for, another.

As a result of its no-kill shelter policy, some animals are staying at SCRAPS for longer. While the average stay at the shelter is 10 days for dogs, The Spokesman-Review profiled five dogs still awaiting adoption after 100 days or more.

Since that story was published in January, three have been adopted.

Courage, an energetic 40-pound mixed-breed with bundles of energy, is now in a foster-to-adopt home. Ruby, the smallest of the five longest-tenured dogs, has since been adopted. Likewise, George, a German Shepherd, was adopted after the original story was published.

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