Getting West Richland police officers out of the dog catching business is the goal.
But getting there is less clear.
West Richland hasn't had an animal control officer since early this year when the one they had left to work at Benton County's new shelter for dogs.
"It's a difficult situation," Police Chief Brian McElroy told the city council at Tuesday's workshop meeting. "We're here to take care of people, and cats and dogs take away from that."
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Officers are responding to stray animal calls and conducting investigations into barking dog complaints -- all duties the animal control officer was doing.
Police office employees spend time trying to link lost animals with their owners or find people and organizations to adopt the animals.
The city also has limited, inconvenient facilities.
"We can only offer a limited level of service. If someone comes to see if one of the dogs we have is theirs, someone has to drive out to where we keep them, bring the animal to the station and, if it's not it, or they don't want to adopt it, drive it back. That takes 40 minutes. It's just inefficient," McElroy said.
Even working with other animal rescue groups in the Tri-Cities and statewide, it's difficult to get animals adopted.
"Too often we're forced to euthanize simply to handle the problem," he said.
McElroy outlined three proposals to take care of the problem:
-- Fill the animal control officer position and continue to run a city-owned shelter.
-- Contract with the Tri-City Animal Control Authority, which takes in stray and unwanted animals in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick.
-- Continue as is with police officers and staff acting as the city's dog-catchers.
"And I'm sure there are other options we've not thought of yet or that have not been proposed to us," he said.
Even if the city were to hire an animal control officer, there's the question of where to put the animals. The dog shelter only holds a maximum of 10, the separate cat shelter has just four, though additional cages can be temporarily added.
McElroy estimated building a new shelter to house cats and dogs with space for a small office would cost at least $100,000.
To contract with Tri-City Animal Control would cost about $69,500 a year in addition to the cost of a vehicle, plus fuel and maintenance.
Councilman Brett Gerry said he is concerned about the city's inability "to satisfy our citizens needs" and would like to see more concrete information about what Tri-City Animal Control can provide and actual costs.
McElroy said he would look into it and asked the council to consider "what you'll want in the next five, 10, 20 years down the road. Will the city want its own facility?"