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Everett shelter has monopoly on stray animal biz
MARYSVILLE Animals are big business for the city of Everett, a business other cities feel they are lucky to get out of.
Since the Everett shelter handles stray animal impounds for the cities of Arlington and Marysville, they are at the mercy of the shelter. Three years ago the shelter charged $60 per animal, now that has jumped to $97, and city budgets are bearing the brunt of the increase.
Marysville has been offering free pet licenses for dogs and cats that have been spayed or neutered for about a year and costs were a main driver of the new law. The Marysville Police Department was bracing for a doubling of shelter costs as the city expanded and shelter fees increased and officers suggested legislation that would reduce the number of animals that went to the shelter.
The city of Arlington operated its own animal shelter until 2000, when rising expenses caused it to be shut down. Along with unincorporated Snohomish County, the Everett shelter handles animals for both jurisdictions.
The city of Everett, they got a lock on it, said Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall, who said his town will just have to eat the higher costs.
Im not happy about it, especially when I can put them in the jail for $55.
Housing prisoners in the city-owned jail costs $55 per day, but the shelter fee is a one-time charge, regardless of how long an animal stays in the shelter or whether it is adopted or killed, and is charged only once for an entire litter of animals. It covers room and board.
Marysville is budgeting $57,000 in animal control costs for 2007; or more than three times the $16,000 spent in 2004. In 2005 the line-item was $20,500; and while $57,000 was budgeted in 2006, only $22,060 was spent. Those numbers do not include the costs for the police departments community service officer, who handles animal control issues along with parking infractions and other duties. There is currently one CSO, but another billet will be filled in early March by the department. Those salaries are paid from a different budget area.
Arlington spent $24,815 on animal control costs last year, although the Everett shelter was paid $20,840: the remainder went to transport costs at $2,950 and just under a thousand dollars for supplies like leashes and pet food. Animals are held at the city public works department up to a day until they are transported to Everett.
Its an expensive business to be in, and if you are going to do it you need to do it right, explained Arlington assistant administrator Kristin Banfield, adding that the Arlington City Council hasnt discussed options, they just passed the new contract this year. Having been in the business before I think we have a pretty clear understanding of what it takes to do it right.
For Everett Animal Shelter director Bud Wessman, those costs have increased because animals are getting better care. All animals are inoculated for kennel cough during intake and more care is provided during their stay. Hopefully they are returned to an owner or sent to a foster home or adoption agency. All of the shelters pet food is donated.
The shelter has also worked hard at reducing the number of animals killed at the shelter: this year there were 1,100 fewer animals euthanized, down from 3,700 dogs and cats last year to 2,600. There were 500 fewer animals brought in to the shelter that year, but with 9,000 animals per year that fluctuation is typical. The reduction in the kill count was due to increased community outreach.
The magnitude of the animals is about the same, Wessman explained. The adoptions are up.
Wessmans staff has held traveling road shows, taking animals to public events to make folks aware of the huge numbers of animals that can be adopted but are instead wasted, dying at the end of a six-inch needle. The shelter also held adopt-a-thons on site and at events around the Puget Sound, even in King County. One event saw 45 cats adopted at the shelter on a Sunday, when the usual number would be four.
We did 37 outreach events last year, Wessman said. Its just helping the people understand the needs.
Dave Vasconi is the sole community resource officer for Marysville, and he said he is spending more time impounding cars and writing parking tickets than chasing mutts. He thinks more citizens are finding animals and returning them to the owners themselves rather than calling the police. Wessman said he has seen less of Vasconi at the shelter than in previous years, and while he couldnt vouch how well the free and reduced pet license program is working, it had to have an effect in bringing attention to the issue. Either way the $20,060 the city spent was less than half of the $43,000 the police department was predicting it would have to shell out.
Grasping the numbers is difficult because Marysville started billing residents for shelter charges, but those people were paying the shelter when they picked up their stray animals, and then the city was billing them again, according to Denise Gritton, Marysville financial planning manager.
It was causing a lot of heartburn with people, Gritton said, adding that the program is on hold until a billing solution is found. So its kind of hard to measure where we are with that.
Those shelter costs can be in addition to fines levied by the police department. Arlington does not bill residents for animal costs, according to Banfield. Most animals stay in the citys care for less than four hours, but she thought the idea of passing the charges onto residents intriguing and said the Council will probably look into the matter.