In the days leading up to Christmas, at the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service shelter on Flora Road, very few creatures were stirring – they’d mostly gone to new, loving homes.
That’s because, according to SCRAPS Director Nancy Hill, the agency’s efforts at a “doorbuster” type sale were successful. By waiving pet fees through the end of the year and offering $25 and $15 adoptions -- to cover the licensing of dogs and cats, respectively – SCRAPS was able to adopt out dozens of animals before the Christmas holiday.
“It’s been crazy here,” Hill said on Dec. 22. “People have been so kind.”
In addition to folks taking home four-legged friends for the holidays, there’s also been a surge in donations at SCRAPS, she said. Pet food, toys and cat litter by the armful made their way through the propped-open doors. One little girl, Hill said, even brought in $100 that Santa gave her.
That money, Hill told the girl, helped pay for the leg surgery of a dog that was able to “find a home with a nice family.”
It’s a happy end to a year that mostly, for Hill, began somewhat hopeful with the prospect of a new regional animal control system – including the doggedly elusive city of Spokane – actually appeared like it could become a reality. Cramped in an aging facility built at the dawn of the ‘70s – which, due to its geographic isolation near Spokane Industrial Park by a set of railroad tracks, cannot be expanded – staff members brightened at the prospect of moving to a new location near the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.
All that was needed was for voters to approve a 5.8-cents-per-$1,000-in-assessed-valuation levy in the form of Spokane County Measure 1. If passed by a simple majority, it would be the green light the Spokane City Council needed to move into a pact with the county, city of Spokane Valley and other local jurisdictions that look to SCRAPS for animal control.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Voters in November rejected Measure 1 in no uncertain terms, dumping the proposal 52,530 to 41,187 in early vote totals.
While Hill attributes the rejection to an uncertain economy and a prevalent desire to not raise taxes – not against her organization or the work SCRAPS does – the failure of the levy’s passage does mean going back to square one in 2012. A new location will have to be found, as the warehouse space on Havana that would have been renovated is likely no longer an option.
“That’s pretty much gone,” Hill said.
Recently, the Spokane City Council agreed to a two-year contract with SpokAnimal -- a nonprofit, non-government-run organization – in the amount of about $753,000 per year.
Hill said she understands the council needed a provider for animal control and is encouraged that most of the council – and incoming Mayor David Condon – are supportive of SCRAPS and a regional concept. She noted that there is a one-year opt-out provision in the contract, which will give the new City Council some options in the future.
“I look forward to talking with them,” Hill said.
Meanwhile, Hill also will continue to work with Spokane County commissioners to keep conditions at the existing shelter workable – especially as it will likely fill up again with homeless animals, just as it always does.
Fortunately, SCRAPS’s manpower is stable, as it didn’t have to be cut as the commissioners worked through another tight budget process. Instead, $15,000 was lost in maintenance and operations money – which Hill said she can absorb.
“It is what it is,” she said.
Meanwhile, Hill said things are good at the animal shelter for now following the outpouring of holiday giving.
“Our staff is smiling and happy,” she said. “The generosity of people never ceases to amaze me.”