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.