City reveals details of new animal control plan

With the announcement that they have found a new shelter with which to partner, the city of Renton appears to be ready to give up its plan of rebuilding the city’s short-term shelter as a longer term boarding facility.

In a presentation to the Committee of the Whole in November, Commander Chad Karlewicz of the Renton Police Department laid out the city’s new plan, which involves partnering with Eastside Veterinary Associates (EVA). The veterinary clinic recently opened a new, modern facility in the Renton Highlands, which Karlewicz called “state of the art” and said they provide “the highest level of service.”

The decision comes after several months of discussion after the city’s long-standing agreement with the Seattle Humane Society was terminated this summer and according to officials the new partnership offers a substantial increase in the services offered.

Under the new plan, which replaces city plans to construct its own full-service shelter, animals picked up by officers will be held for a few days in hopes the owner can be found and then transferred to EVA. Every animal taken to the facility will be given an exam, vaccines and if necessary, flea treatment. Spay/neuter, micro-chipping and dental services will also be available.

The new facility offers separate wings for dogs and cats, with individual climate control and dedicated heating and air conditioning.

For dogs, the shelter at EVA has 29 individual suites of various sizes, all with raised beds and windows. There are two dog parks at the facility, a 375-square-foot indoor park and a fenced, 5,000-square-foot outdoor area, both covered in Astroturf. According to documents, all dogs are individually walked or exercised for 15-20 minutes three times a day.

The facility also features a cat boarding area specifically designed for felines. Each “condo” features two small, connected units that have three levels each, giving the cats a total of six different height levels on which to sit. There is also a larger room with a cat wheel and various cat trees designed for exercise and to allow cats to roam a bit.

The city also proposes holding strays for five days instead of the three required by law to give the city better opportunity to reunite pets with their owners, which would use volunteers to help out.

The cost to the city will $185-$240 per animal and $25 per day for cat boarding and $55 per day for dog boarding. The police department estimates that they take in approximately 100 dogs and 80 cats each year, which results in an annual cost of EVA services ranging from $70,800 to $80,700. According to documents, the current budget would accommodate costs.

After the five-day period, animals that are “adoptable” will be turned over to a partner shelter, according to Karlewicz. The Auburn Humane Society was named as one of the organizations interested in taking the animals.

Animals not suited for EVA would continue to be held at the current facility at the city shops. To do so, the kennels still require an upgrade.

“Part of what we are wanting to do is upgrade the north portion of our current kennels,” Karlewicz told the council.

The work would include enclosing the north kennels, removing the chain link fencing and replacing it with a solid surface that can be disinfected and adding ventilation systems, heat and light to each kennel. The upgrade would take about three months and cost about $100,000, which the department said is within the current budget.

The issue of animal control has been a hot button in the city since the news of the Seattle Humane Society contract’s termination broke, with many people opposing the city’s efforts to create their own shelter. But news of the new arrangement has been met with positive response.

Cathleen Powell of South County Cats Spay/Neuter Assistance Organization called the new arrangement a “dream come true for lost and stray pets in Renton” but also raised concerns about what happens after the short-term boarding at EVA.

Powell said her first concern was a pet’s “adoptability,” as a stray that has been picked up may not exhibit their best behavior initially and therefore not seem adoptable. She also worried about what would happen if shelters were full.

“As someone who has worked in rescue for more than 10 years, I know that during spring, summer and fall, [local] no-kill shelters are generally full and have long waiting lists,” Powell said in an email. “Now that Renton no longer contracts with Seattle Humane Society, that puts them in competition for those coveted spaces with all the other small rescues and independent rescuers, as well as kill shelters, throughout Washington State.”

That said, Powell expressed hopes the transition would go smoothly and that the details would be worked out, though she said she wished they had given the “what next” piece more thought prior to loosing the Seattle Humane Society contract.

“In theory, it all sounds fabulous, and it is my strong hope that it works out as seamlessly as presented,” she said.

The next step for the city is to look at municipal codes and rewrite those related to animal control to reflect current procedures, such as free rides home for identifiable strays, a way to recoup boarding fees from owners and a change to two-year pet licenses.

Additional outreach is also planned.