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City expects to extend animal control program
Service receives good reviews
in its first year
As Auburn’s Enhanced Animal Control Program approaches its first-year mark in September, it and King County Animal Control Officer Tom Harris are earning top marks from the public and city officials.
Police Chief Jim Kelly recently delivered a glowing report card to the Municipal Services Committee. Council members are evaluating the pilot program to determine whether to continue it beyond a year.
Kelly recommended that the city keep it going.
“Community response has been positive,” Kelly said.
The program provides a fully outfitted animal control officer based at the Auburn Police Department who remains a King County employee. It calls for an annual payment to the county of $90,000, which in return provides Harris for 40 hours a week. Between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, he enforces all King County animal control ordinances adopted by city code and specific ordinances in the city code, including the dangerous dog ordinance.
Kelly said that:
• In the first year and a half the dangerous dog ordinance was in effect – from March 2006 to August 2007 – King County registered 59 dogs. In the 11 months since the launch of the enhanced animal control program, 67 dogs have been registered, an increase from 3.2 to 6.1 registrations each month.
• Residents have logged only two complaints about the program: the first was unfounded; the other directly related to the enforcement of the dangerous dog ordinance. Kelly said there have been many positive comments from residents about Harris and his ability to problem solve and relate to people.
• During the first 11 months of the contract, KCAC responded to an average of 58 calls each month. The average amount of calls has been declining because of the reduced presence of KCAC officers in the field.
• Without the enhanced services offered in Auburn, many of the calls would not have been handled or handled after an extended waiting period, possibly days.
Harris, who was unavailable for comment, has focused a lot of his attention on public education and working with the Parks, Arts and Recreation Department to deal with unleashed dogs running loose in the parks. He has also worked with the Muckleshoot Tribal Housing Authority to help with animal issues and enforcement there and has made business contacts with pet stores, veterinary clinics and animal housing businesses for disaster preparedness.
“Officer Harris is a great guy, with a good public relations presence in the community,” said Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis. “Residents are willing to talk to him. Some of these guys from animal control, people wouldn’t talk to them in the past. People had an animal problem, but they didn’t want to talk to the officers anymore because they didn’t like their manner.
“He gets along with the citizens. They’ll call him in when they don’t necessarily want an animal removed but want help, and he comes in with ideas and tips. He’s just a great guy.”
But the key selling point for city officials is public safety.
“Now we know if a resident calls in that somebody is going to be there. We know it’s going to be taken care of,” said Councilman Gene Cerino, chair of the Municipal Services Committee.