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Whidbey need not be Alcatraz for animals

May 21, 2013 · Updated 4:21 PM
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Editor,

Recently I attended a conference where a fellow attendee joked that I live on Alcatraz for animals because, “You don’t have any model programs in place.”

His region qualified for Maddie’s Funds after adopting the Asilomar Accords, a nationally recognized system of animal data reporting. “Since 1999, Maddie’s Fund has awarded animal welfare organizations and universities $118 million to save animal lives,” according to their site. But no one qualifies without adopting the Asilomar Accords and developing formal collaborations among shelters, rescues, government entities, and the veterinary community in a defined region.

While this is happening in regions all around us, can it happen here?

Our four different animal control/sheltering contractors do not use the Asilomar Accords or even provide the same consistent data to the county Animals cannot be tracked through any centralized database from the time they enter the county system to their ultimate disposition (information vital for needs assessments for grants).

Our county does not have an animal control and care director, department or citizens advisory board for animal control and care, like its noxious weed board, for example.

Despite requests, our commissioners have not approved a return home policy for licensed pets that would encourage license sales to underwrite badly needed programs like subsidized low-cost spay neuter.

We have an overpopulation of feral cats, and no programs in place to reduce their numbers humanely. People have to leave the island to find low-cost spay/neuter services for the public.

The soon to be lone public shelter on Whidbey is substandard and located near a methane venting system that’s illegal in other states due to safety and environmental concerns. There are private, state and federal grants available for public shelters, but no one has applied for them

There is no viable licensing program to support animal control and care.

Just think: if 20,000 pets got licenses at $10 every year and those pets got a guaranteed ride home if lost, this would also help reduce shelter overcrowding.

Buying a license is confusing, and the benefits unclear.

The county renews contracts year after year without seeking real public input or exploring innovations.

There is no stray pet Facebook page to help owners find their pets faster before losing their ownership rights. The county system is so fractured, it isn’t even clear who would put up such a page, which is free and reduces needless sheltering costs to taxpayers when animals are claimed faster.

The Camano Island animal control contractor quit due to lack of funds and the position remains unfilled; animal control officers don’t even have microchip readers in their vans to help animals get home faster.

The commissioners say responsibility lies with the sheriff and the sheriff’s office says responsibility is the commissioners.

Elsewhere, with the support of their governments, coalitions have made it happen like the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland.

It consists of animal welfare organizations and the veterinary community – meeting regularly to collaborate on spay/neuter programs; adoption, fostering, licensing and outreach efforts, as well as “the promotion of humane alternatives” for feral cats.

Was it easy? No, but they put differences aside to work on common goals.

Efforts here have been met with reluctance, resistance, and even ridicule.

So it does beg the question – is this Alcatraz for Animals? I hope not.

 

 

Barbara Moran

Whidbey Animal Guild

 

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