Explore a local shelter solution

When a Snoqualmie Valley pet gets lost or abandoned, chances are that it winds up in one of King County Animal Care and Control’s two shelters, at Kent and Bellevue’s Crossroads district.

Those two shelters were supposed to close at the end of this month, but County Executive Dow Constantine has asked to extend the deadline to June. The county needs to come up with about $1 million to keep the shelters open.

Those shelters have received a fair amount of criticism in recent years for poor management and conditions, and the cash-strapped county planned to save millions by shutting them down. King County is now in talks to pass some duties off to cities and non-profits.

According to Snoqualmie Police Chief Jim Schaffer, a new regional solution might see Snoqualmie, North Bend and other Valley communities partnering with neighbors such as Issaquah to start an east King County animal shelter.

How might such an arrangement work? Suppose that a dangerous dog was causing problems in a Valley neighborhood. Instead of a county animal control officer responding, a North Bend or Snoqualmie officer, paid for through local pet licensing fees, would arrive, collect the dog, then transport the animal to a regionally supported shelter.

Sharing resources to create an shelter makes economic sense, as police and fire departments have known for some time. Snoqualmie, North Bend, Issaquah and the county share police, courts, jail services, prosecutors or public defenders.

Despite their problems, county animal shelters have played an important role, taking in some 8,000 animals per year. The city handover remains a moving target — at this point, there is no animal control program in place in the Valley. Locals remain dependent on the county.

Let’s be clear: problems with pets start with people. A lot of the animals in the shelter probably wouldn’t be there if owners showed more responsibility in spaying, neutering, licensing or seeking the proper homes for their animals.

With animal control duties passing into Valley hands, the community — and local pet owners — should do their part to make sure any new, local shelter doesn’t go the way of the county shelter.

Unless an owner is in the business of breeding and selling dogs or cats, their pets should always be spayed or neutered. Unspayed pets create a nuisance for an entire neighborhood, putting pressure on a local animal control system that may not have the capacity to care for growing animal families.

Financial reasons shouldn’t prevent owners from getting their animals spayed or neutered. There are many avenues for people to receive discounted spay and neuter services from local organizations such as the Valley Animal Partners or PAWS.

When locals are looking for a pet, consider adopting a shelter pet. Adoption gives a needed home to an animal. Adopted pets come spayed and neutered, licensed and healthy, with shots taken care of.

I’ve always believed that dogs and cats deserve the right kind of home. While many people depend on animals for companionship, safety and their own well-being, owners should always consider that their pet is a living thing that has needs of its own. Many pets aren’t appropriate for everyone, and owners should only keep a pet if they can properly care for it.

Valley pet owners can do their part to ensure that pets stay in good homes, instead of a city- or county-run kennel.

• E-mail Valley Record editor Seth Truscott at editor@valleyrecord.com

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