Kirkland police may take over animal control services for city
By MATT PHELPS
Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor
March 23, 2012 · Updated 9:24 AM
A Kirkland resident called King County Animal Control to have three guinea pigs removed from the yard. Only two of the three were caught.
“The third guinea pig is still at large,” City of Kirkland Intergovernmental Relations Manager Lorrie McKay told the Kirkland City Council during Tuesday’s council meeting.
But while there is humor in escaped guinea pigs, the cost to the city of Kirkland, $2,500, is no joking matter.
McKay’s presentation was part of a recommendation for the city to provide its own animal control services instead of entering into another contract, or Inter Local Agreement (ILA), with King County Animal Control when the current ILA expires
at the end of the year. The difference could be around $30,000 per year to the city.
As a result, the council unanimously passed a measure in support of taking on animal control to give the city more leverage in county negotiations. But some, like Councilman Toby Nixon, were ready for the city to take on the public service immediately.
“It is more expensive than the jails,” said Councilman Bob Sternoff.
“In December a Kirkland resident contacted King County Animal Control because there was a rogue bunny in her yard,” said McKay, noting that bill was $1,250 for the shelter and about $300 for the control officer.
The average cost for control services through the current ILA during 2012 is more than $2,000 per call, with more than $500 for an animal control officer to come out and $1,500 for sheltering. The cost would increase under a new ILA with the county due to the annexation of 31,000 residents last June.
Overall, the city pays $12,309 per year to contract with King County. Having the city take on animal control services could actually bring in revenue of more than $17,600 a year. There has been no decision on how those funds would be allocated in the budget.
“It is disturbing to me what we have been paying for animal services,” said Councilwoman Penny Sweet. “… we have an opportunity to be a model, not just an example, with what we set up.”
Most cities that handle animal control do it through the police department.
“It would be a new level of service to implement,” said Kirkland Police Chief Eric Olsen. “I am looking for what model is best for the City of Kirkland.”
Kirkland is not alone in potentially wanting out of the ILA, as Shoreline and Auburn have also notified the county that something has to change.
A new ILA, with current negotiations, would essentially stay the same monetarily.
“The effect of the population factor … is that cities with low-use animal services, generally the northern cities (of King County), subsidize cities with high use,” said McKay.
Kirkland’s bill for the service per animal is high because it is one of the cities in the ILA with a relatively low number of animal control calls. Thirteen cities in King County opted out of the current ILA when it was put into effect in 2010, including Seattle and Renton.
Under a plan to shift animal control to Kirkland City management, the cost per animal would drop dramatically to just under $800 per control call and sheltering. The biggest difference is in the sheltering cost with PAWS or the Seattle Humane Society costing an average of $160 per animal. Control costs would rise from $500 to $624 per call.
There are startup costs for the city of around $100,000 for equipment, a control vehicle and other issues. A holding pen would also have to be found.
An animal control officer and equipment would cost the city $102,569 annually. NORCOM or dispatch would also cost an additional $525 a year, according to city staff.
“Ideally we would have an animal control officer, similar to what Bothell has,” said Olsen.
The city would also have to contract out to a company like PetData for pet licensing. Pet licenses pay for the animal control services.
The cost to the city for licensing would drop from $6.92 to $3.85 and it would keep all revenues from license fees other than the fee paid to PetData for processing. The average cost to license a pet through King County for an owner is between $15-60, depending on the age of the pet and other factors. If the city ran animal control, projections are that those costs to residents would stay the same.
Kirkland has to obtain about 10,000 pet licenses to maintain costs under the current ILA and that could be increased to 7,855 under a new ILA. But if the city runs the service it would have more control to cut costs, whereas an ILA has fixed costs.
The issue was brought to light by current Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett when he was King County Executive. He expressed the intent for the county to discontinue the service because it was costing the county $2 million a year.
The city must inform the county of its decision by May 1 or the current ILA will be extended for three more years beginning July 1, 2012.
Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride said that the council will have to “get down to business” on the issue during its next meeting.
Contact Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor Matt Phelps at email@example.com or 425-822-9166 ext. 5052.