West Richland has long been leading the call for a regional approach to animal control.
Or even a dual effort with another municipality or county struggling with the daunting challenge of contending with rogue or lost animals.
But no other entity ever became serious about partnering with West Richland on animal control, which surely could have led to shared solutions and costs. The synergy of a partnership often brings more beneficial results than a solo effort.
Animal control came to the forefront a few years back when a playful but pathetically injured pup was found wandering in Franklin County, which still lacks formal animal control procedures.
The Good Samaritan who rescued Chocolate from his wanderings on badly broken legs soon came face to face with the problem. There was nowhere to take a stray. The burden would fall to her to pay for treatments and care for the dog, both beyond her good-hearted means. The public and a veterinary clinic came to the rescue after the dog's plight -- and uncertain fate -- were publicized.
But it became apparent that not every stray dog would have a day with a fairy-tale ending like Chocolate. And it also became apparent that people were purposefully dumping animals in rural areas beyond the reach of animal control.
And that got people -- and governments -- talking. Animals, especially dogs, are a sympathetic topic. People want to help them. They don't want to see them mistreated. They want to see that the folks who dump animals, abandon them or hurt them, suffer consequences.
And that's where organized animal control efforts can help. That is unless a government decides not to deal with the problem.
Pasco, Kennewick and Richland pay for services through the Tri-Cities Animal Control Authority. West Richland needed partners to spread the cost.
The city tried with no success to get Benton County and Franklin County to partner on a regional facility. Benton County quickly made it known it would go solo on animal -- make that dog -- control by building a small and costly kennel to house a few dozen stray canines. A broader animal control plan was not addressed.
Franklin County just doesn't seem to consider animal control a priority, despite citizens' concerns about dangerous dogs, dog bite injuries and several heart-tugging stories of strays in need of assistance.
For the past year, West Richland's animal control had been handled by its police department. We hardly think that rounding up stray animals should be the role of the police force. The city had about $75,000 annually to dedicate to animal control but the cost to join the Tri-Cities Animal Control Authority was more than $100,000.
The city's police chief wanted out of the animal control business, and we don't blame him. Officers responded to 480 animal calls last year. Their efforts should be focused on preventing and solving crimes.
The West Richland City Council agreed last week to use its money to hire an animal control officer to provide basic services.
We applaud West Richland for its efforts and understand the need for the city to take action for the quality of life of its residents, but it's frustrating to think how much better animal control services could be with a unified effort.
Stray animals can't see city or county boundaries as they wander in search of a home. Animal control truly is a regional problem, one that could be served with a centralized shared facility and a plan with a broader focus.
But, for now and into the foreseeable future, that is not going to happen, leaving the citizens and the animals of our region without the service they deserve.