Animal welfare groups backing animal control program

Kitsap Humane Society’s top dog wants to educate public officials about the importance of animal control before they decide the program’s fate.

Kitsap Humane Society’s top dog wants to educate public officials about the importance of animal control before they decide the program’s fate.

“It’s not that they’re bad people, they just don’t understand,” KHS Executive Director Sean Compton said.

Local animal welfare organizations sent a letter to the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners last week showing their support for a KHS-operated animal control program.

“We’re showing support not just for the concept of animal control, but specifically for Kitsap Humane Society to continue doing it,” said Mark Hufford, the executive director of PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap. “We all feel Kitsap Humane Society does a fantastic job with animal control and they are the logical entity to continue doing it.”

The letter states any cuts to the animal control budget would put both the public and animals at risk.

“Unfortunately, cuts to the county’s animal control budget over the last few years have more than trimmed any ‘fat’ from the department, they have cut into the muscle. The drastic additional cuts now being considered for 2010 would cut into the bone and would constitute an egregious insult to the concept of compassionate animal care and an irresponsible risk to public health and safety,” the letter states.

Compton said the letter from PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap, PAWS of Bremerton, the Kitsap Spay and Neuter Council, Rescue Every Dog and other organizations was a “nice surprise.”

“Even when these challenges happen, it’s an opportunity for the community to speak up about what’s important to them,” he said.

KHS is the only provider of animal control services in the county, with cities also soliciting the services.

Two of KHS’ biggest contracts, Kitsap County and the city of Bremerton, are up for renewal at the end of this year, with both annual contracts expiring Dec. 31.

Compton said in July Bremerton’s 2009 contract is more than $200,000 and officials are looking at cutting a smaller amount than originally discussed.

Compton credits the city’s financial services director, Andy Parks, with doing everything possible to minimize cuts.

The county’s animal control budget may be sliced by 20-25 percent in 2010, according to Compton. The 2009 contract is about $535,000.

“I expect within two, three weeks we’re going to have a much clearer picture of what our budget is going to look like,” he said.

One animal control officer position has already been cut, dropping the total number of officers down to six, and the county recently took animal noise complaints out of KHS’ hands. Earlier this month, the county began handling animal noise complaint calls through its Kitsap One phone system, for a savings of $28,000.

Hufford said the animal welfare organizations believe animal control issues are best left in the hands of the professionals at KHS.

“We don’t want to see some horrible situation occur that is caused by lack of training and experience,” Hufford said. “It requires highly specialized training and it’s a place where experience really, really matters.”

Hufford said having animal control handled in-house by KHS means animal control situations will be dealt with in a humane manner.

“We want to make it clear to the community that everyone who is involved in animal care and animal rescue is behind the humane society,” he said.