King County stinks at animal business

By Craig Groshart, guest columnist

  • Friday, June 13, 2008 7:58pm
  • Opinion

By CRAIG GROSHART, Editor, Bellevue Reporter

Here’s what King County calls proper treatment of animals in its shelters:

• Dismal shelter conditions and animal-care protocols, resulting in lack of humane care that borders on animal neglect.

• Continual outbreaks of disease that indicate lack of proper cleaning and vaccination protocols.

• Animals allowed to suffer for lack of medical treatment.

• Missed opportunities to save the lives of animals or properly respond to calls for service.

It’s no wonder that a consultant has called for the county to get out of the animal care and control business and let a private agency do the work.

Nathan Winograd, who runs the No Kill Advocacy Center in San Clemente, Calif., issued a blistering report this week on the sad state of the county’s animal care operation. His 147-page report, complete with photographs, paints a shocking picture.

(To read the consultant’s full report, go to

Winograd made two visits to the county’s shelters in Bellevue and Kent. The first, unannounced, was on Jan. 30. The second, pre-scheduled, came Feb. 18-21. The news was dreadful on both occasions.

Animal holding spaces were inadequately cleaned, staff displayed ignorance of basic animal care and behavior, and some animals went more than 24 hours without food and water, Winograd said in his report.

Winograd added that the county’s executive branch has “overlooked and ignored well over a decade’s worth of neglect and poor leadership” at animal control.

During this time, the executive’s office was assuring the County Council that the agency had a “model animal control program” and was a “recognized leader” in animal control.

The exact opposite appears to be the case. As Winograd notes, “animals are not being fed, care is poor, and suffering is the norm.”

None of this is new. The same problems that plagued the shelter 10 years ago plague the agency today, Winograd said.

Part of the problem apparently rests with the facilities themselves. The Kent shelter was built in 1975 as a place to warehouse and kill dogs away from residential areas of the county. It’s now in an industrial zone, making it difficult to attract people to come and adopt dogs.

At both the Kent and Bellevue facilities, the outside grounds are dirty and in disrepair. Winograd uses the word “filthy” to describe them.

Inside things are worse. Winograd notes there are few systems in place to prevent animals who healthy from becoming sick; “in fact, many practices at the shelter make illness nearly inevitable,” he said.

We would like to believe that the county is prepared to fix the problems, but given the years of inattention, that seems unlikely. If King County can’t or won’t do the job right, the task needs to be given to those who will. As Winograd notes, the county’s animal control operation “has failed the animals.”

Craig Groshart is editor of the Bellevue Reporter, a sister paper of the Federal Way Mirror. Send comments to

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