A new animal control agreement in the Tri-Cities could have animals —and people — breathing a little easier at Tri-Cities Animal Shelter and Control Services in Pasco.
The city councils of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick took up a pair of new agreements this week to address animal control. The updated agreements set the stage to build a new 8,000-square-foot shelter in Pasco as early as 2018.
The Pasco City Council approved the agreement Monday. The Kennewick and Richland councils were expected to follow suit Tuesday evening.
The new agreements govern animal control operations and authorize a $60,000 study to determine if it makes sense to build a new shelter on eight acres next to the current center at 1312 S. 18th Ave., Pasco.
Rick Terway, Pasco’s administrative and community services director, expects to advertise in early 2017 for a consultant to conduct the study.
If approved, the city will advertise for a designer and builder in 2018. As part of the deal, the cities of Richland and Kennewick will buy an undivided interest in the Pasco-owned property and will contribute equal shares to the construction cost.
The three cities have a long-standing agreement to jointly operate animal control services out of Pasco.
5,000 in 2013
A2Z Animal Sheltering Services, a nonprofit, provides the animal services under a contract to the cities. It separately operates a shelter and animal adoption program at the same center.
It’s unusual to combine animal control and a shelter in a single facility, said director Angela Zilar.
She is not involved with developing a new building, but she has plenty of experience with the outdated one the cities bought years ago from the Humane Society.
Zilar said the current building, built and added onto in the ‘50s and ‘80s, is simply too old.
The water and sewer lines, constructed with galvanized pipes, are failing. The drain lines are embedded in concrete floors, making them difficult to access for repairs. And the electrical system is aging.
The building is not properly ventilated, leading to damp air that’s bad for animals and the humans who work or visit. Zilar said that’s particularly hard on cats, who are more susceptible to respiratory issues than dogs.
In the ‘90s, the entire building was encased in a green shell with the unintended consequence of creating a gap where rodents thrive. Rodent control is nearly impossible, Zilar said.
“There are times when you walk in and you can smell mice,” she said. Even if the shelter could set its cats loose on the mice, they couldn’t access the narrow gaps where mice live, she said.
This week’s agreement does more than establish the possibility of a new shelter. It will improve how the three cities jointly handle animal control issues and establishes terms for other entities to join the animal control program if they wish, including Benton and Franklin counties and other cities.
Pasco’s Terway said the new agreement calls for better tracking of the many ways animal control operates, from bringing animals into the center to reuniting them with owners.
Kennewick, Richland and Pasco currently split the cost to operate animal control, not always fairly reflecting the actual work done.
“Pasco has more dogs, Kennewick has more cats and Richland has less of both,” he said.
The animal shelter currenty handles about 3,800 dogs and cats annually. That’s down from an average of 5,000 as recently as 2013. It euthanizes 6 to 10 percent of animals, most because of disease or injury.
Zilar credits spay and neuter programs for reducing the number of stray and unwanted dogs and cats. She also said more people are using social media to report when they’ve found a lost animal.
Terway said the drop is already paying off.
The proposed shelter will be somewhat small than initially discussed to reflect the dropping number of strays.