You may have heard the news about Snohomish County potentially ending its contract with PAWS to house stray animals from unincorporated areas. The contract is scheduled to end effective January 1, 2011 if approved by the Snohomish County Council. PAWS is deeply concerned about the effect this will have on the community and its animals. We have been proud to serve as the animal shelter for Snohomish County for more than 20 years, and have been an essential resource and safety net for the citizens and animals of the County for more than 40 years.
If the proposed 2011 Snohomish County Budget is approved as-is, animals like Cora, who was found in unincorporated Snohomish County, would no longer be brought to PAWS for sheltering.
The number of animals
PAWS and the Everett Animal Shelter have been the contracted agencies to provide stray services for the County for quite some time. In 2009, PAWS housed more than 1,200 stray cats and dogs from unincorporated Snohomish County, the vast majority brought to us by caring citizens who took time to bring lost, scared animals to safety.
If the County ends its contract with PAWS, citizens will have only one place to take those animals. Per Snohomish County Code 9.12.055, PAWS will not be allowed to take in and house stray animals from unincorporated areas of Snohomish County, and will have to instruct citizens to take strays to the one designated County shelter in Everett.
Times are tough and PAWS supports the County in efforts to achieve a sustainable budget. We appreciate that the budget would still retain key services sought by the community, including animal sheltering services. In this economy we are seeing an ever increasing number of animals abandoned and neglected because of foreclosures, evictions, job loss and hard times. Eliminating PAWS as a location where citizens and animal control officers can bring animals does not reduce the need. It simply makes the service less convenient and less accessible.
We are concerned that the elimination of a second animal shelter within the County will not achieve the financial reductions envisioned by the Auditor’s office, and will negatively impact the citizens at a time when so many are experiencing the hardships of a difficult economy.
PAWS is concerned that fewer animals will be picked up which would mean more animals on the street to become injured, to potentially cause car accidents when they run into the road, and to breed, thus increasing the overall number of animals who will need help.
The County Auditor stated that one of the reasons behind the elimination of this contract for cost savings is the annexations proposed to occur sometime in late 2012, which might diminish the need for stray services in the southern portion of the County. We aren’t aware of any date certain for annexations, but agree when they occur, it would be appropriate for the County to no longer provide for stray services in the affected area of the County.
PAWS is also concerned for our colleagues at the City of Everett animal shelter. We fear that taking on an additional 1,000-plus animals at a time when they recently expressed a lack of sufficient staffing to handle the current workload, will stretch the facility and staff to a point where they may face the need to euthanize healthy, adoptable animals – a practice they have worked very hard to avoid.
PAWS’ shelter is not closing
If this decision goes through, it affects our ability to take in strays from unincorporated areas of Snohomish County. However, PAWS will continue to take in owner-surrendered cats and dogs as we have the space and resources, as we always have. We will continue to provide adoption services—through PAWS last year more than 2,000 cats, dogs, puppies and kittens were matched with loving families. PAWS contracts to house strays with other municipalities and will continue to take in stray animals from Brier, Bothell, Kenmore, Lynnwood, Lake Forest Park, Mill Creek, Mukilteo and Shoreline.
A Northwest leader since 1967, PAWS also rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife, offers effective, humane information for preventing conflicts with wild animals, and provides educational programs in area schools and throughout the community. Community support and the work of more than 1,000 volunteers are vital to PAWS' ability to do this work.
What you can do
The Snohomish County Council is accepting comments and community input on the proposed budget, and would appreciate your views on the Executive’s proposal regarding stray services for animals from unincorporated Snohomish County. The County budget will be approved by November 22. If you’d like to comment on the 2011 proposed budget, you can do so through the County’s website or by contacting your councilmember.