The Snohomish County Council is considering terminating its contract with PAWS next year to house stray animals from unincorporated parts of the county. Lynnwood-based PAWS is concerned about the effect the move will have on animals in the community.
If the county ends the contract, people will have to take stray or unwanted animals to the Everett Animal Shelter, which PAWS says is already overburdened.
“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,” said Kay Joubert, PAWS Director of Companion Animal Services.
PAWS is concerned that fewer animals will be picked up, which could mean more animals on the streets to become injured or to breed.
Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel says they have no other choice but to eliminate the agreement with PAWS. Her office was tasked with finding more than $704,000 in cuts to staff or operating costs.
“The Auditor’s Office has very few discretionary programs or services which makes this type of exercise extremely difficult,” Weikel said.
She says Snohomish County has invested in the capital building of the Everett Animal Shelter and has a long-term commitment to it.
“The Everett shelter provides additional flexibility for our Animal Control staff and guarantees sheltering services for all animals brought by our officers. Snohomish County does not have the same arrangement with PAWS,” Weikel said.
She said the county simply can’t afford both shelters. The PAWS contract costs the county about $100,000 per year.
In 2009, PAWS housed more than 1,200 stray cats and dogs from unincorporated Snohomish County. The vast majority of those were brought in by citizens.
“We believe that those individuals who have historically surrendered strays to PAWS have compassion and caring for the animals and will take those animals to the Everett shelter,” Weikel said.
But PAWS worries that the Everett shelter simply can handle all those additional animals. “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,” Joubert said.
The Snohomish County budget is expected to be approved by Nov. 22.
PAWS will continue to house stray animals from within the Lynnwood city limits.