Clark County closer to deal on housing strays

Back and forth with Humane Society has lasted for months

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer




Previously: Clark County commissioners have delayed a two-year contract to house county strays with the Humane Society for Southwest Washington to the point that the Humane Society says it doesn’t believe it will work with the county next year.

What’s new: Commissioners agree to move forward on discussing a contract, but requested legal counsel to investigate if the county can only collect stray dogs and cats.

What’s next: Commissioners will receive legal advice on the matter. A public hearing on the contract is scheduled for Oct. 8.

Clark County commissioners once again appear to be moving toward agreeing to a contract with the Humane Society for Southwest Washington for housing stray animals.

Commissioners have placed the contract on their consent agenda for the Oct. 8 meeting. But before they vote, they want clarification from their attorney on which animals the law requires them to house.

The attorney's answer will likely determine their vote.

Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Lawrence Watters told commissioners Wednesday he would look into the legality of changing county code to limit the stray animals the county must collect to just dogs and cats. Under state law, it's a county's duty to collect and house strays for a specific amount of time.

The issue of small animals, such as birds and rabbits, being collected was first brought up by Republican Commissioner David Madore during the monthslong negotiations with the Humane Society.

The county is likely to pay around $325,000 for services to the Humane Society in 2013. That pays for about 2,450 animals to be housed and kept for the mandated minimum amount of days. Of those 2,450 animals, about 35 each year aren't cats or dogs.

The county pays per animal, so the change to the bottom line will be small, but Madore says it still counts.

"Let's fix the hole in the policy," Madore said to his fellow commissioners while lobbying for the change. "It's a simple little fix."

If that change can be legally made, it appears commissioners will approve a contract.

Commissioners Tom Mielke, a Republican, and Democrat Steve Stuart agreed to make the change if it's possible, but noted they need to move quickly on a contract with the Humane Society.

On Monday, the Humane Society said it is now planning for the future as if the county won't contract with them in the coming years.

An Oct. 1 deadline for an agreement on a contract has passed, but Stacey Graham, president and executive director of the Humane Society, said if commissioners present a contract by Oct. 15 the board "will consider it."

The Humane Society has asked for the county to pay the actual cost of service per animal in the years ahead. In the past, the Humane Society has been subsidizing the cost per animal with donations.

To that end, the Humane Society is asking for $170 per animal in 2014 and $200 in 2015. The $200 mark is cited as the actual cost of service in 2013. Currently, the county pays $132.50 per animal.