Changes coming to animal control, read the full report here

Brynn writes:

On Monday Kitsap County Commissioners heard recommendations from a nine-member citizen advisory committee that has met since February to find ways to streamline animal control services in the county. The committee’s review included a look at how animal control, provided by the Kitsap Humane Society, functions in the county, ways to increase pet licensing compliance and the need to update fees based on 2013 numbers.

Eric Baker, special projects manger for the county, presented an overview of the committee’s recommendation to commissioners at a work study. Highlights of his presentation include:

Stray animals: Strays make up the majority of the costs facing animal control services (60 percent, according to Baker). The costs come from housing the animals and providing care, including medical attention if they are injured and giving vaccinations to make sure they are up to date on shots.

The Humane Society holds animals for 96 hours for an owner to come claim them. If the owner doesn’t come during that 4-day period, the agency takes ownership of the animal and puts it up for adoption.

The committee recommended changing the amount of time animals are held, differentiating between licensed and unlicensed animals. A licensed domestic animal will be held 7 days, while unlicensed animals will see their hold time reduced. Adult dogs and cats will be held for 72 hours, puppies and kittens under 6 months old will be held 48 hours and litters only 24 hours (litters rarely come in which is why there is such a short hold, according to the committee).

Another recommendation is making pet owners pay for the time their animals are held. If a dog escapes and is captured by an animal control officer, if the animal is licensed, microchipped or has some form of identification, often animal control officers try to return the dog to its home without a visit to the shelter. When that happens the owner isn’t charged.

The committee has recommended a $45 civil infraction for owners whose pets escape but are returned without a visit to the shelter. If an animal is at the shelter the committee proposed increasing the fees to more accurately reflect the financial burden felt by the Humane Society. Those proposed increases include a $45 impound fee (up from $25); $45 vaccination fee (same); $20 boarding fee per day (up from $15); $30 for a microchip (not applicable now). Medical costs would be case dependent.

Pet licensing: The story I wrote in today’s paper covers this in detail, but essentially the committee would like to see incentives in place to encourage people to license their pets. Humane Society Executive Director Eric Stevens compared the licensing to an insurance policy, saying if a pet is lost or escapes it is one more step toward hopefully being reunited with the animal.

“The faster we can return the animals to the owners the better it is to the animals, and the better it is to the owners,” Stevens said. “And it keeps costs down.”

License fee increases for animals that haven’t been microchipped or spayed/neutered are proposed and can be found in the committee’s report (a link to the pdf is at the end of this blog). The committee also recommended to offer a 3-year and lifetime license option and a way for people to renew their licenses online.

Investigations: Animal control investigations are heard in Kitsap County District Court, but often the cases take a long time to make their way through the legal process. In one case an animal was held at the Humane Society shelter for 11 months while waiting for legal proceedings.

The committee recommended moving the animal control infractions investigations to the county’s hearing examiner process to capture more of the paid penalties — when paid through District Court most of the money goes to the state.

County commissioners were happy with the committee’s recommendations and agreed to begin the process of implementing the changes. In some cases that means county code will have to be amended. When that happens public hearings will be held to get feedback before commissioners vote on the proposed changes.

“There may be some tweaks that we want to make in future years, but I am more or less OK with the recommendations and I think we should implement them as soon as possible as it is feasible,” Commissioner Josh Brown said.

To read an executive summary of the committee’s report and recommendationspresented to commissioners Monday, click here for the pdf: Animal Control Citizens Advisory Committee recommendations.

5 thoughts on “Changes coming to animal control, read the full report here

  1. Increasing fines and attempting to remove jurisdiction of the District Courts over animal issues/complaints, are not examples of attempts to “streamline” the dispute process. This is about creating revenue. Since Mr. Stevens has become the permanent, rather that interim director of this organization, he has initiated and supervises various capital improvements to the organization’s facilities. Raising fines, and diverting cases to the hearing examiner is about increasing revenue and the split between this organization and the county. If that’s indeed what is going on, then there should be a formal bidding process, for these contract services. Choice and competition should drive down the cost, and based upon the past record of performance of this organization, change would be better for the county.

    1. To clarify:

      The citizen advisory committee was convened by the county to look at the services the county gets through its contract with the Kitsap Humane Society. Eric Stevens and members of his board were at every committee meeting, and answered questions by the committee as members were reviewing the information to come to their final recommendations, but this isn’t be proposed by the Humane Society or Stevens.

      It was the county’s committee that recommended the switch to the hearing examiner based on its review of the current system.


  2. Here’s another thought on moving animal noise and complaints to the hearing examiner. Why? Because there’s been some recent episodes, albeit under a previous administration, where this organization has miserably FAILED !

    “The humane society, with Pierce County Animal Control and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, obtained a warrant to seize more than 150 animals from the nearly 5-acre property. County health officials also were on site to check for any possible health violations.”

    ” An Olalla couple accused of neglecting 173 animals will be charged with second-degree animal cruelty in Kitsap County District Court.”

    ” Second-degree animal cruelty is a gross misdemeanor. If convicted, the Baileys could face up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.”

    Notice how the story has change from the above to just animal cruelty, but the number of animals increased to 173.

    Finally, a Judge grants the couple Due Process by ordering: ” Presiding Judge Jeffrey Jahns also placed a temporary order to stop any further adoption, alteration or anything else that could devalue the animals while in the care of the Kitsap County Humane Society, the agency that alleges the Baileys neglected their animals. For the animals that have already been adopted or damaged, there will be monetary compensation, according to the couple’s attorney, Paul Richmond.”

    ” Eric Stevens, appointed this week as interim director of the Kitsap Humane Society, said he didn’t know enough about the case to comment. Other officials with the Kitsap County Humane Society, which organized the seizure of the animals in November, didn’t return phone calls.”

    And the Coda from the Prosecutor’s office:

    Recent turmoil at the Humane Society , including the sudden departure last month of Executive Director Sean Compton and an online petition alleging mismanagement by the board of directors, contributed to the prosecutor’s office decision.”

    Until the Advisory Council and Mr. Stevens can improve this agency’s performance, these cases should remain in the District Courts.

    1. I believe any investigation that is related to a criminal offense — like animal cruelty — would still be heard in District Court. I will check on this to see if that’s true, because I don’t know definitively.


  3. Thanks for the clarifications, Bryn, but as a pet owner, I won’t be going through a hearing examiner. Based upon previous experiences, and previous examples of improper oversight, If I was cited for a revised “infraction”, I would file a lawsuit against the Humane Society. It’s very simple, if my dog were to be in the backyard barking, or pacing the fence, I’d be looking at my closed circuit system. If it’s determined that it’s a case of high traffic willfully leaving the sidewalks and trespassing, that’s an issue for the sheriff and the neighborhood.

    If it’s a homeless person casing the neighborhood, or some unmonitored child running around, the dog is just defending and monitoring it’s territory. Particularly, when the dog’s fenced in area is 10 or more yards away from the sidewalk.

    From my perspective, there have been too many instances of poorly filed paperwork, or just outright false paperwork emanating from that organization. Bremerton was being shaken down for money, for undocumented work. A man’s dog was adopted out from under him, after a DUI arrest. And I’m pretty sure there was willful misconduct with the animal seizure raid in Olalla.

    What I’d like to see, is an advisory committee that does biannual audits on the case files that the humane society submits to the courts for action. If the society does not follow a standard procedure checklist, or an investigative rubric, people should be held accountable, and/or prosecuted. So, I’m stating that I’d like to see some real oversight over the humane society, if these changes are going to be made. And I’d like to see the County develop alternatives to having a heavy reliance on the humane society for services.

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