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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane City Council asks for transparency after SCRAPS euthanizes 14 dogs in a day

Nick Hobbs Doyle, shelter operations manager for the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services, addresses accusations of shelter misconduct and unnecessary euthanizations during a May interview.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Spokane City Council has asked the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service to address concerns that the organization is unnecessarily euthanizing dogs after 14 of them were put down Wednesday.

Animal welfare advocates and former SCRAPS volunteers and staffers have alleged that animals are being euthanized due to “lenient director discretion and capacity issues,” according to a Wednesday statement by the City Council. The cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley contract with the county-run SCRAPS for animal control services.

SCRAPS Director Jesse Ferrari, who has led the organization since October, declined a Thursday interview.

County spokesman Patrick Bell said in an interview that animals are only being euthanized as a last resort when they pose a public safety risk, suffer from untreatable medical conditions or are otherwise not adoptable.

“We are dedicated to providing the highest level of care at SCRAPS,” Bell said. “We do not euthanize due to capacity issues.”

Though concerns have been flagged for months, the request for SCRAPS to address the issue at a public meeting Monday comes in response to the 14 euthanized dogs.

“We had discussions with County Commissioners and SCRAPS staff regarding no-kill policies/practices,” Councilwoman Karen Stratton wrote in a Wednesday evening statement. “So, I am very disappointed that we were not notified of these multiple euthanasias today. I think it is safe to say this has not been a transparent process.”

Former employees and volunteers at SCRAPS have accused the organization of negligence in its care for animals, unethical behavior by leadership and unnecessary euthanization in violation of SCRAPS’ no-kill policy and government contracts.

SCRAPS leadership has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Bell said Thursday that a number of dogs euthanized the day before had histories of biting or other behaviors that made them unable to be adopted, and shared a photo of one staffer who suffered a severe bite to the arm in March that resulted in hospitalization.

Bell said he was unaware of any changes in policies or practices at SCRAPS since Ferrari took over last year and said the allegations arose from “disgruntled” former staff and volunteers who have provided no evidence of wrongdoing.

Bell acknowledged that the organization was frequently at capacity, in part because SCRAPS does not euthanize in order to free up space, and noted that shelters throughout the country are experiencing capacity shortages. Bell also said the organization’s resources were constrained.

While Bell said the organization was open to continued dialogue with the City Council, he declined to say that representatives would attend Monday’s committee meeting.

“We work with our partners, but I can’t say definitively yes,” Bell said. “Our folks that run SCRAPS are full tilt on the mission.”

Bell said there was a formal dispute resolution process if the city had concerns with its contract with SCRAPS.

“That would require an itemized list of concerns with evidence,” he added. “To date … we have received no evidence.”