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Animal services: Federal Way breaks from King County
Fourth of July weekend will likely prove the first big test for Federal Way's new animal services unit, due to launch July 1.
The City of Federal Way took a bold move to break from the county's animal services model in February upon hearing that the price to contract with King County Animal Care and Control was expected to increase — while services were expected to decrease.
Several other cities currently contracting with the county chose to wait to see if the revised KCACC model works before deciding whether to offer their own animal services. Federal Way's unit will operate out of the police department.
"This is an exciting opportunity," said Cmdr. Melanie McAllester, who will lead the team. "We are going to do wonderful things for the animals of Federal Way."
The change residents are most likely to notice is a quicker response time, McAllester said.
KCACC employed one full-time officer to provide service to more than a dozen King County cities.
The Federal Way unit will perform the same tasks available under the KCACC model. How the services are carried out will differ slightly.
Scott Eatchel, the animal services officer, will be available around the clock to handle Federal Way's animal concerns. Kelly Crouch will act as the animal management coordinator.
"We're hoping to be the flagship for the county," Eatchel said.
Filing animal complaints
Federal Way will operate a local pet hotline at (253) 835-PETS as the main source for information and to file animal complaints. Callers with an emergency will be rerouted to 911 dispatchers. Eatchel and police officers will respond to the situation. Non-emergency calls will be directed to Eatchel while he's in the field. He will respond to the calls as they come in.
"Our goal is to make it a one-call stop for animal services," McAllester said.
Eatchel, the unit's only new employee, will play a vital role in providing animal services. He's been employed as an animal services officer in four prior cities, the most recent in Utah. Eatchel said he is comfortable responding to dangerous calls, such as those involving aggressive dogs. Both McAllester and Crouch are currently employed with the police department.
The unit will thrive on pet licensing fees. Currently, about 35 percent of dogs and 19 percent of the city's cats are licensed, McAllester said. Overall, licensing must increase by 40 percent to make Federal Way's animal services viable. Active King County licenses will continue to suffice until they expire.
Crouch will be tasked with licensing and sheltering duties. Licensing materials will be available through the animal unit, but also placed in pet stores and sent to households. A door-to-door pet licensing campaign is expected in the fall.
"Our goal is to make it easy for all of you to license your pet," McAllester said.
A pet fostering program is in the works. The city has contracted with The Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County to house pets whose owners cannot be located. However, the preference is to keep the pets in Federal Way until their owners are found. The unit will first try to locate a lost pet's owner via a license or embedded microchip. The next option will be a foster home willing to take the animal until it can be placed back with its permanent owners, McAllester said.
"It's less stressful for an animal to go into a home than a shelter," she said.
The last resort is the society's animal shelter, located in Tacoma.
The foster program will take a few months to set up, McAllester said. Several city staff members have offered to serve as temporary foster parents over the Fourth of July weekend, when typically a number of animals are scared off by fireworks and other chaos. Anyone interested in acting as a foster family for Federal Way pets may contact Crouch at (253) 835-6710.
The animal services unit may be of assistance in the following situations:
• When a lost animal is found
• When a person wishes to make a complaint about an animal, such as a barking dog
• When an aggressive animal is loose
• When a person is looking for a lost pet
• When a person wishes to license his or her pet or renew a pet license
Federal Way's pet licensing fees will differ slightly than those charged by the county as of July 1, when Federal Way's services launch and King County's recently adjusted fees go into affect.
• Unaltered dogs and cats will cost $60 to license, compared to King County's current $90 fee and soon to be $60 fee.
• Altered dog licenses will cost $25, compared to the $30 charged by the county.
• Altered cat licenses will cost $20, compared to the $30 charged by the county.
• Replacement tags will cost $2, compared to $5 in King County.
• Senior citizens and disabled individuals will receive pet licensing discounts. Pet owners age 65-plus will be allowed up to three free pet licenses for altered dogs and cats. King County charges $20 for dogs and $12 for cats for up to three licenses. The fee will change to $15 for a dog or cat beginning July 1.
• Disabled individuals in Federal Way will be offered the same discount as senior citizens.