County should get out of shelter business, expert says

The Council will conduct a public hearing on the future of its animal-care services at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 14 at a Town Hall Meeting at the Highline Performing Arts Center, 401 S. 152nd St., in Burien.


The Council will conduct a public hearing on the future of its animal-care services at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 14 at a Town Hall Meeting at the Highline Performing Arts Center, 401 S. 152nd St., in Burien.

To read the consultant’s full report, go to

A consultant to the King County Council recommended last week that a private agency should take over the county’s Animal Care and Control services.

“While I have historically been concerned about the practice of private agencies performing animal-control work, there does not appear to be another reasonable alternative in order to solve the endemic problems of King County Animal Care and Control,” consultant Nathan Winograd wrote in his 147-page report, released last week.

Winograd, who runs the No Kill Advocacy Center in San Clemente, Calif., gave a preliminary report March 17 to the Council. He told the Council then that he had doubts whether the county’s animal control division could create a model no-kill program because it couldn’t even properly feed the dogs and cats it now houses at its shelters in Kent and Bellevue. Kent’s shelter, the larger of the two, came under considerable fire from Winograd.

Winograd’s full report criticized County Executive Ron Sims, whose office oversees the Animal Care and Control division. Sims has been King County executive since 1997.

“The county executive has failed for over a decade to take the necessary measures to reform the shelter despite numerous reports, recommendations and credible complaints over the inhumane and inadequate condition of the shelter,” Winograd wrote.

Sims and his staff, including Al Dams, acting manager of King County Animal Care and Control who oversees the Kent and Bellevue shelters, have not yet released comments in response to Winograd’s report.

Natasha Jones, communications manager for the executive branch, said last week, “For a report of that magnitude, it will be a detailed response.”

But Dams earlier denied Winograd’s allegations that animals at the Kent shelter went without food and water for more than a day.

“I’ve found looking at documents (working checklists) and interviewing officers that evidence does not exist to support that allegation,” Dams said in an interview after the March 17 meeting.

The Council will decide whether to continue to operate animal-shelter services after it conducts a public hearing April 14 in Burien on the issue of its shelter programs.

“This written report identifies serious issues involving shelter management and leadership that must be addressed,” said Council Chairwoman Julia Patterson in a written response to Winograd’s full report. “We look forward to discussing these findings with the county executive so we can move forward together to ensure the humane treatment of animals in the custody of King County Animal Care and Control.”

Patterson represents District 5, which encompasses Kent, Des Moines, SeaTac, Federal Way, Tukwila and Renton.

The Council hired Winograd to determine whether the county has the leadership, human resources and facilities to operate a model no-kill program.

In Winograd’s report, he wrote that problems include:

• Dismal shelter conditions and animal-care protocols, resulting in lack of humane care that borders on animal neglect.

• Continual outbreaks of disease that indicate lack of proper cleaning and vaccination protocols.

• Animals allowed to suffer for lack of medical treatment.

• Missed opportunities to save the lives of animals or properly respond to calls for service.

Winograd wrote that previous reviews of the county’s animal-care division had similar findings and still nothing has been done to resolve the problems.

“There is no reason to expect that this agency can or will proceed in compliance with Council policy demands when they cannot even ensure that animals in their care are provided with food and water,” Winograd wrote in the full report.

King County Animal Care and Control has been under close watch by the Council since a citizens advisory committee, formed in May 2007 by the Council to investigate the shelter, issued a damning report in September 2007 that called for improvements at the shelter from its current “deplorable” condition.

The Council funded only the most critical upgrades (budgeted at $130,000) to the Kent Animal Shelter for this year until it decides later this spring whether the county should stay in the animal-shelter business, and if so, what changes should be made.

King County provides animal control and shelter services to unincorporated areas and 37 cities within the county, including Kent. The city of Seattle has its own animal control officers and operates an animal shelter.

Steve Hunter can be reached at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052, or