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King County enters race for Auburn animal control services

Don Edwards, veterinarian at Green River Veterinary Hospital and and one of the founding members of Auburn Valley Humane Society, spoke in favor of the nonprofit
Don Edwards, veterinarian at Green River Veterinary Hospital and and one of the founding members of Auburn Valley Humane Society, spoke in favor of the nonprofit's proposal to supply animal control service for Auburn.
— image credit: Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

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,cost estimates would appear to bear out that optimistic 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. She 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 met Monday evening to discuss the AVHS-Auburn professional services contract, which calls for the nonprofit AVHS to be ready to hit the ground running when the present contract expires in 2012.

A new development as of the meeting was King County's surprise late entry into the game. County representatives told City leaders earlier in the day that the county could do it cheaper than AVHS, though they did not present an actual plan. City leaders agreed to hold off a decision on AVHS until they could get a look at the county's proposal, possibly by mid to late September.

(See below for present cost comparisons)

When the City entered into the animal control contract with King County in June 2010, it gave up its dedicated animal control officer and costs shot up. Auburn City Councilman John Partridge asked area 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 the non-profit for $1 dollar. 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 animal control officers are spread extremely thin under the county contract. The county 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 to pay $240,000 per year to AVHS in quarterly payments, with any increases based on the consumer price index, with a maximum increase of 3-percent per year for the following year. The City will sell pet licenses within city limits, and AVHS will receive 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.

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Cost comparison 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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