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Edmonds requires stray pets to be neutered

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Pamela Brice / Herald Writer
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EDMONDS -- It could cost you $90 to adopt a stray dog or cat in Edmonds. That's up from $25. After a three-year battle, the Edmonds City Council on Tuesday implemented an animal control ordinance requiring stray animals to be spayed or neutered, with the adopting person paying the cost. Before the law, animals did not have to be spayed or neutered. Now the adoptee will pay $65 to the city for spay or neutering services and $25 to the impound kennel. If the animal is already altered when impounded, the adoptee will pay $15 to the city and $25 to the kennel. Some officials, including city attorney Scott Snyder, believe the law won't stand up in court and the council acted beyond its authority. The council rejected several earlier proposals after discussions broke down over how the procedure would be paid for and how it would be implemented. City Council member Michael Plunkett, with help from Lynnwood's Progressive Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS, organized a petition for a public initiative on the issue in 2002. More than 5,000 people signed in support of a spay-neuter ordinance. The petition also called for the city to set up a $5,000 fund to pay for the operations. Initially, the council turned down the initiative, leaving the matter to voters. But a week later, the council reversed its decision, turning the initiative into law. The reversal was done to save the city money, Mayor Gary Haakenson said. It would have cost the city about $50,000 in election expenses, according to the Snohomish County
Auditor's Office. But it's taken more than a year to implement the law because of a number of flaws that could not legally be changed, Snyder said. "The council implemented a public initiative that sets certain funding and fees in place, which, in this state, an initiative has no authority to do," Snyder said. Furthermore, "In this state, a city council has no authority to amend an initiative either." But that's what the council did Tuesday night. "What the council faces is a situation where if they adopt the initiative as it is, they are passing a illegal ordinance. But if they don't do it, they are in violation of the petition," Haakenson said. "In either case, someone can sue the city because of these flaws." The city has worked the past year to tweak the ordinance and clarify the fee structure. PAWS advocate Tamar Puckett said the group is frustrated that the process took so long. "But we are very happy and take it as a signal the city is ready to move forward now that they've ironed out this last piece," she said. The city deals with a lot of stray animals. Assistant Police Chief Al Compaan said the city impounded 264 dogs and 139 cats in 2002, the latest complete year figures were available. Edmonds was one of two shelters in the county that did not spay or neuter animals prior to adoption. Mountlake Terrace is the other. "This is a public policy that every urban community has enacted, and it's long overdue in Edmonds," Plunkett said. Reporter Pam Brice: 425-339-3439 or pbrice@heraldnet.com.

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