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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane County wants formal sit-down with city over SCRAPS dispute

Pebbles, a chocolate lab mix, curiously eyes the camera in 2019 in Spokane. Spokane County officials are seeking a formal sit-down with Spokane leaders after the city on Monday passed an ordinance that prohibits euthanasia in the event of capacity shortages at animal shelters.   (Spokesman-Review photo archives)

Spokane County is requesting a sit-down with city leaders after the Spokane City Council on Monday passed an ordinance restricting the regional animal control agency’s ability to euthanize dogs.

The Spokane County Commission on Tuesday unanimously decided to initiate a “dispute resolution” with the city. In effect, the county wants to work out disagreements about the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, an animal control agency typically referred to as SCRAPS. The commissioners made the motion following a closed-door meeting and didn’t mention it on their published agenda.

SCRAPS euthanized 14 dogs last week, and volunteers and staffers have said the agency is doing so unnecessarily.

In response to those allegations, the City Council in a 6-0 vote amended municipal law to prohibit the euthanasia of Spokane dogs in the event of capacity shortages at city-contracted shelters. Spokane pays the county about $700,000 annually to have SCRAPS provide animal control in the city.

Spokane County CEO Scott Simmons on Tuesday accused the City Council of allowing “incorrect narratives to be perpetuated” and “irresponsibly harming SCRAPS’ reputation.”

Simmons said SCRAPS doesn’t euthanize animals due to capacity issues. Only dogs that are sick, injured or dangerous are put down, he said.

“These are not dogs who you would want in your home, with your children, around your pets, in the vicinity of your neighbors,” Simmons said. “You wouldn’t want them in your neighborhood or in the community.”

Simmons said the City Council’s recent amendments to Spokane’s animal control law violate the terms of the SCRAPS contract. Per the contract, the city and county’s animal control laws have to be “substantially consistent,” Simmons said.

Before Monday’s amendment, the city had no rules related to shelter euthanization. That meant SCRAPS defaulted to the county’s rules, which allow euthanization on the basis of capacity.

City Councilman Michael Cathcart, who along with Councilwoman Karen Stratton led the push to amend Spokane’s animal control law, said he welcomes a sit-down with county officials.

But he also said the county is operating in “bad faith” by arguing the city’s amendments conflict with the SCRAPS contract.

“Why are they so concerned on the code change?” Cathcart asked. “If in fact they don’t kill for capacity, I would argue they should be happily coming to the table to change their own county code.”

Cathcart also said he’s skeptical that amending the city’s animal control law could create a legal issue with the SCRAPS contract. He said the city’s lawyers, not council members, wrote the changes.

“I have a lot of faith in our legal team,” he said. “I don’t believe they would have recommended we take these actions if they thought we were violating a contract.”

City Council President Lori Kinnear said the city changed its law to protect dogs from being put down needlessly.

“We’re all adults; we’re all reasonable people,” she said. “We’ll have the sit-down with the county and come to terms and straighten some things out.”