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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Feb. 24, 2024

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Animal control reduces services after staff exodus

Manager Scarpelli out; multiple employees gone, advisory board member resigns

By , Columbian political reporter

Clark County has reduced its animal control services following the sudden departure of multiple employees, including animal control officers, in addition to manager Paul Scarpelli.

A county press release issued Monday afternoon stated that the county is working to restore previous levels of animal control services, and an outside company will help with enforcement and outreach efforts in the meantime. But members of the animal welfare community have expressed concern about the sharp reduction in services and the sudden departure of Scarpelli.

Dr. Elizabeth Grauer, who works as a veterinarian in Battle Ground, said that on Monday she resigned her position on the Animal Protection and Control Advisory Board. She said she made her decision to resign from the board after serving on it for more than a decade because of what she described as Scarpelli’s firing from the county.

“He’s smart; he’s efficient,” she said. “He was very, very good at everything I saw him doing.”

The statement issued by the county didn’t mention Scarpelli by name nor the reduction in animal control officers. It described the situation as “unexpected” and “temporary.”

County Human Resources Director Kathleen Otto confirmed that Scarpelli was no longer employed by the county as of three weeks ago.She also said that the staff at animal control, who performed tasks including licensing and enforcement, had been reduced to two.

Scarpelli couldn’t be reached for an interview. But in a text, he said five employees in animal control, in addition to himself, lost their jobs.

Otto wouldn’t say if Scarpelli had been terminated or had resigned and declined to comment further.

“Out of respect for all employees, we don’t comment on personnel matters,” she said.

‘Delicate’ situation

Scarpelli said in an earlier text message that the trouble stemmed from a visit to a Vancouver restaurant after a luncheon for the Parks Foundation of Clark County, which was held last month. He said that he had clocked off from work for the day, which he said he announced to the table he was at. He said he discussed off-leash dog parks and also ordered a beer.

“Evidently my ordering a beer while off duty brought concern to someone else, and I was reported to county (Human Resources),” said Scarpelli. He added, “I’m now seeking employment after 17 years of dedication to the county.”

Describing the situation as “delicate,” he said that “now most of my staff have personally been affected.”

Grauer said she’s concerned about the lack of answers from the county, as well as the reduction of staff for animal control, a county function she said has long been under-staffed.

Fireworks concerns

Denise Lukins, a local attorney who previously served as a county hearings examiner for animal control issues, said she’s also concerned about animal control unexpectedly losing so much staff. She said she’s particularly concerned about animal control being reduced right before the Fourth of July holiday, a celebration that annually causes pets to go missing.

“I consider it a public safety issue to have functional animal control in the county,” said Lukins, who added that she doesn’t think two animal control officers is adequate. “What are you supposed to do when you’re attacked by a dog or horse gets out?” she added.

She also said that animal control officers have gone through training, particularly with horses, and are not easily replaced.

According to the statement, the county “is focused on meeting the immediate demands of summer weather and Independence Day activities” and will continue to provide animal licensing services.

The county hopes to restore its levels of service by mid-August, according to the statement.

Contractor to assist

In a follow-up email, Bob Bergquist, interim animal protection and control manager, said that the county has long had a contract with Critter Gitter, a Portland-based pest control company, for many years that allows the county to provide after-hours service for animal control. According to the statement, the company will help fill in the gap.

The Humane Society for Southwest Washington contracts with the county to provide shelter services. In a statement, Stacey Graham, the Humane Society’s president, said that her group has long had “great working relationship” with county animal control.

“We are meeting with Bob Bergquist on Thursday to discuss the situation and next steps,” she said. “We are committed to do whatever we can to ensure that stray animals are safe and cared for, and can find their way home as soon as possible.”

Columbian political reporter