Auburn City Council to vote on local animal shelter service contract

Members of the Auburn Valley Humane Society say they can do the job for fewer dollars than King County, running an animal shelter right here and offering better service than residents now get under the City's present animal control contract with the county.

And with the City of Auburn throwing both an animal control officer and a building for that shelter into the proposed contract with AVHS, City leaders are optimistic about that cost-cutting scenario.

"By having control of our own animal control officer and many things that go along with that … we cut down a lot of costs, and we can operate a lot more efficiently," Brenda Heineman, human resources manager for the City of Auburn, recently told the Municipal Services Committee.

Heineman added that with the efficiencies built into the agreement, the City should recoup its initial $1.1 million investment and start-up costs within two to three years.

The full Auburn City Council will vote on the AVHS-Auburn professional services contract at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5.

(See below for cost comparisons)

The agreement calls for the nonprofit AVHS to be ready to hit the ground running when the present contract expires in 2012.

When the City entered into the current contract with King County in June of 2010, it gave up its dedicated animal control officer, Tom Harris, and costs shot up. Auburn City Councilman John Partridge approached local veterinarians for ideas.

The agreement since hammered out calls for AVHS to operate the shelter in a City-owned building on A Street Southeast, which the City will lease to it for $1 dollar a year. The City will provide up to $417,000 toward the completion of tenant improvements there. The shelter's capacity will be 50 animals per day. If there are more, AVHS has agreed to work to reduce the population through adoption, foster care, other humane societies, or other appropriate means.

The agreement is for seven years, with the right to extend another seven years, starting in 2012.

If AVHS does not raise $176,000 on its own in start-up costs, the City will advance it up to $176,000. Starting in the third year, the City will deduct money advanced for start-up costs against future fees paid to AVHS.

The City will provide animal control services and pay an animal control officer $80,196 annually, answering a common concern — that the county's animal control officers are spread extremely thin under the current contract. The officer responsible for Auburn now covers a 300-square-mile area, extending east from Federal Way to the county line.

The agreement calls for the City of Auburn to pay $240,000 annually to AVHS in quarterly payments, with any increases based on the consumer price index to a maximum increase of 3-percent per year for the following year.

The City will sell pet licenses within city limits, with AVHS receiving 100-percent of the licensing fees collected.

The shelter will be open to the public 24 hours per week. Hours will be added as staffing and budget permits.

Beyond merely licensing dogs and cats and other animals, the veterinarians want to give the public a personal stake in the shelter and animal services.

"The idea is to make it a community organization, so that when people buy their licenses, they are not just paying a tax, but they can go and see what animals services they get for that license, right here in Auburn," Don Edwards, veterinarian at Green River Veterinary Hospital, and one of the founding members of AVHS, recently told the Auburn Reporter.

Edwards added that as a smaller shelter, the facility would offer more personal service. The AVHS will sponsor community events for pet adoptions, seeing to it that people adopt as many pets as possible from the shelter. The shelter will also return lost pets to their owners.

Cost comparisons with King County:

2012: King County, $572,837; AVHS, $1,137,253 (includes start-up costs)

2013: King County, $694,820; AVHS, $453,891

2014: King County, $799,408; AVHS, $451,343


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