Capacity, location, costs issues for animal shelter

For a while there, it looked like we were done commenting on the need for an animal control facility to contend with stray dogs in Benton County.

County commissioners planned to have a dog shelter open by April 1 of this year with room for 60 to 120 dogs. And it was going to cost somewhere between $250,000 and $350,000.

Fast forward to the present, and we have yet to see a shovelful of dirt turned. The bid for construction was just awarded to the tune of $815,000, and the 3,200-square-foot facility will hold only 35 dogs.

Sheriff Larry Taylor, who will retire as sheriff to instead run the dog shelter, has vowed to make it a no-kill shelter. By our guess, that means it will probably only take a few days to fill up.

West Richland recently announced plans to move its animal shelter after years of complaints about barking dogs at the city's existing kennel. The city is spending $13,000 in moving costs and another $400 per month to lease a temporary home for the facility at Lewis and Clark Ranch.

In the long run, West Richland will have to look at building a new shelter or contracting with Tri-City Animal Control. Mayor Donna Noski even mentioned the possibility of a deal with Benton County, once its shelter is completed.

Good idea, but only if there's room.

Once upon a time, West Richland and Benton County talked about combining forces for animal control. Plans were drawn up for shelters, and it looked as though Benton County would build a facility, while West Richland operated it. There'd be room for everyone's strays.

But commissioners became impatient with the process. Of the proposals made at that time, one commissioner said a 2,250-square-foot shelter with a $720,000 price tag would be inadequate. A larger shelter for the joint venture would have been 5,750 square feet with a $1.5 million price tag.

Eventually, county officials decided it would take too long to work with another entity and left West Richland to resolve its own animal control problems.

But now, a full year later, the latest incarnation of the county's shelter has switched sites from the fairgrounds to other county-owned land at Grant Street and Deschutes Avenue and escalated in price.

County commissioners say an animal control facility is necessary, and we agree.

But instead of a collaboration with West Richland, the two entities are on separate but parallel paths. Both likely will spend more than the joint venture would have cost. And neither has a sufficient long-term solution.

Ever since the discovery of a puppy mill in Benton County last May, there has been renewed energy to build a dog shelter. And since that time, Taylor has been leading the charge to get it done.

We applaud him for that. Not every sheriff would give up law enforcement for dog-catching and collecting. But not every sheriff appears on the front page of the newspaper cradling a puff of a miniature American Eskimo puppy rescued from horrid conditions. His affection for canines is well-documented.

We lent our voice to those calling for Benton County to do something about animal control. And now we're not the only ones who've gone from advocacy to second-guessing the county's response.

The size, location and cost all have raised a few questions and some eyebrows.

With West Richland still searching for a permanent solution, we'd like to see a collaborative effort given another chance.

But a request for bids was issued and a contractor selected. Hoping for the best might be the only option left.