FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - As Mary Kurtz walks a friend's dog, she says she has little faith in King County's ability to control animals in her home of Federal Way. Kurtz was charged by a pit bull a few years back and says the county's response was ridiculous.
"I called 911. They said to call animal control. I called them and no answer. The next day I called and they said I could fill out a report online, so I did. That was the end of it," says Kurtz.
Late last year, King County decided to close its troubled animal control agency after continued complaints about conditions for animals and response times to calls. Last month, newly elected King County Executive Dow Constantine reversed that, and directed staff to find a regional approach to deal with the problem.
But officials in Federal Way say King County is barking up the wrong tree. They claim the city can save $146,000 a year by dumping the county, hiring its own two-person staff and contracting for shelter services.
"It's a great way for us to stay within our budget, also to provide more local control," says city spokeswoman Linda Farmer. "We would have the office right here in Federal Way and we are planning to increase our response times."
To pay for the new agency the people of Federal Way will be asked to pay for dog licenses.
King County says the numbers Federal Way is using are completely inaccurate, and that the predicted cost-savings may not materialize.
A spokesman says the county will have real numbers by the end of March and they're asking cities to put off any decision until then.
Supporters of the county's regional approach say many more animals would likely be euthanized by sending them out of King County where kill rates are usually much higher.
One chief critic pushing for reform in King County Animal Control is urging Federal Way to hang in there.
"For the first time, there is real hope that this situation is going to change," says Claire Davis of KCACC Exposed. "King County Executive Dow Constantine has been working with local non-profit organizations, KCACC employees and volunteers and community advocates, to create a county-wide solution that will not only reform animal services in the short term, but will work to achieve a cost-effective, humane, long-term solution for the homeless animals of King County."
Tuesday evening, the Federal Way City Council voted to approve a locally run service, including pet licensing. The vote passed 6-1.
Federal Way will start its own animal control operation for the first time in the city's nearly 20-year history. The plan includes $100,000 to contract for shelter services with the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County.