Snoqualmie, North Bend lean toward regional animal shelter plan

The cities of Snoqualmie and North Bend are expected to join in King County's new regional animal control system.

Under the plan, cities pay for service by Regional Animal Services of King County, which replaces the former King County Department of Animal Care and Control. Abandoned animals would be housed at a non-profit shelter in Lynnwood or at the county shelter in Kent. Six full-time animal control officers would be dedicated to work in the field five days per week, with one officer dedicated to each of the county's four animal control districts — one in the east, one in the north and two in the south.

Snoqualmie and North Bend were previously exploring an independent model with other regional cities, such as Issaquah and Sammamish. But the new county model seems to offer a better deal, at least for now.

"Affordability wise, partnering is the way to go," said Snoqualmie Police Chief Jim Schaffer.

Participation costs North Bend about $28,900 in 2010, with a $14,300 credit in pet license fees and about $3,500 in transition funding. North Bend would pay the county about $11,000 for service.

In Snoqualmie, service is estimated at $40,600 in 2010, with a $23,000 credit in pet fees. The city's total cost for service would be $17,000.

Unlike North Bend, Snoqualmie does not receive transition funding. Temporary discounts are given to cities with a high fee-to-population ratio.

Cities have until the end of the month to join the regional pla. Cities have the option to sign a six month or two and a half year contract or opting out.

"That number is not chiseled into stone," said North Bend City Administrator Duncan Wilson. "Depending on how many cities participate, it's going to divide up the overhead costs. If cities drop out to do their own program, that number could go up later on."

Both cities still have concerns about their obligation to pay for sheltered animals who cannot find homes.

"The county has taken on a policy that they are going to keep all animals until they are adopted," Wilson said. "How much additional cost does that impose on contract cities?"

Schaffer suggested that the county charge people a fee when they give their animals to the shelter.

For his part, Schaffer questions the availability of animal patrol response on weekends.

"My concern is that it's a five-day-a-week event," Schaffer said. "If we don't have them on a seven-day-a-week availability, is it back to us to have a way to transport animals?"

If county response on weekends costs extra, it may be cheaper to pay a city officer overtime for response.

"We need to weigh out these options," Schaffer said. "That's a small logistic challenge compared to establishing our own shelter and procedures of enforcement."

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