Efforts to control dogs running loose in a large county "doughnut hole" inside Pasco city limits have stalled.
For months, Franklin County commissioners have wrestled with how to provide animal control to the urbanized area where 4,000 people live.
Still on the table is one proposal from the Tri-Cities Animal Control Authority to have Franklin County and West Richland join forces and split the costs of providing animal services.
But commissioners say they can't afford that either.
Commission Chairman Bob Koch said the county put $20,000 in next year's budget to handle dangerous dog problems and has a contract with the Animal Hospital of Pasco to hold those dogs. But animal control is something else.
At this point, there just isn't any more money to pay for animal control, Koch said.
And that means Lara Neiffer and some of her neighbors remain frustrated.
Neiffer asked commissioners about a year ago to fix the loose dog problem after she was attacked by a dog while walking her dog near her home. Neiffer's earlobe was torn off in the attack. It was reattached.
Then last week,one of her neighbors was bitten on the leg by a dog while she was riding a bicycle about four blocks from where Neiffer was attacked.
Neiffer said she knows a leash law wouldn't solve every dog problem, but she wants there to be some way that dog owners can be held accountable.
"It's called keeping people safe," she said.
She now drives out of her neighborhood to walk her dog so she will feel safe.
Tri-Cities Animal Control Authority, which includes Kennewick, Pasco and Richland, sent a proposal to the county Aug. 15 to provide animal control and shelter services and dangerous dog response for about $23,000 a year.
But that wouldn't be necessary if the doughnut hole -- mostly from Sylvester Street to Argent Road between Roads 52 and 100 -- is annexed by the city. Then Pasco would provide animal control there.
The county would adopt the same rules and licensing requirements as Pasco.
Benton County opened its own control authority earlier this year for rural animal issues.
Pasco, Franklin County and Franklin Fire District 3 have been talking about a planned annexation of the area using a new process that allows an interlocal agreement among the three. Meetings held so far on the issue have drawn a mixed reaction from residents, many of whom worry about higher taxes and more restrictions on their country lifestyle.
In the meantime, West Richland is struggling with a similar dog control issue but can't afford to fix it without partnering with Franklin County.
West Richland Mayor Donna Noski said the proposal from Tri-City Animal Control Authority is reasonable.
The authority reduced the cost for the county and city from $165,000 to about $93,000, according to the draft contract.
West Richland would pay 75 percent of the cost, or about $70,000, while Franklin County would pick up the rest.
But Noski said West Richland can't afford the entire amount and must consider other options, such as using current staff or issuing a request for proposals for another contractor.
She hopes to bring a proposal to the city council as soon as possible.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org