WEST RICHLAND -- Dog gone is something West Richland Police Chief Brian McElroy hopes to see Tuesday night.
West Richland hasn't had an animal control officer since early in 2011, when its agent left to work for the Benton County Animal Shelter in Kennewick.
Since then, McElroy's officers have been responding to stray animal calls and conducting investigations into barking dog complaints, all tasks the animal control officer had performed. Meanwhile, the office staff tries to link lost animals with their owners or find people and organizations to adopt the animals.
"They have really stepped up and should be commended for that," McElroy said.
Animal control is on the agenda for the 6 p.m. city council workshop scheduled for the council chambers in the West Richland branch of Mid-Columbia Library.
By the end of the meeting, McElroy hopes his police officers will be out of the dog catching business.
Last August, McElroy presented three options to the council:
* Re-institute the animal control officer position with West Richland continuing to run its own shelter.
* Contract with the Tri-City Animal Control authority, which takes in all stray and unwanted animals in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick.
* Continue with police officers and staff serving as dog catchers.
On Tuesday, he will ask council members to decide.
"My goal is to leave there with some direction from the council so I can move forward and either hire an animal control officer or have an alternative," McElroy said. "The council has to decide what they feel is most beneficial and serves the community."
The city contacted the Tri-City Animal Control Authority about adding West Richland to its patrols, with Franklin County sharing some of the cost, but the price quoted exceeded the city's budget.
"To my recollection, it was nearing $100,000 without Franklin County being part of the agreement. The city has $74,000 to work with," McElroy said. "The council needs to decide how much service they are willing to provide and still stay within budget."
The city did advertise, asking for bids for animal control, but no one applied.
"So that limits our options," he said. "The council may decide to stay with only basic service, which is what we have now."
Essentially, that involves dealing with dangerous animals and providing a basic kennel for cats and dogs. It does not include an active feral cat program.
It also provides advertising animals that are impounded to either get them adopted out or returned to owners as opposed to euthanasia -- although it would not eliminate euthanasia.
"The public has the perception that we kill all these animals, but that's not the case at all," McElroy said. "In fact, the number of animals we euthanize has dropped significantly."
The department works with several nonprofit animal rescue groups to get animals fostered out for future adoption and or adopt them out themselves.
Every impounded animal is listed on Craigslist, which helps reunite them with their owners and with adoptions, too.
"Now, we only euthanize dangerous dogs -- and once one that was significantly injured," he said.