EVERETT - By the end of next month, more than 10,000 animals will have been squeezed into the Everett Animal Shelter in 2005 - in a space designed to care for 3,500 each year.
And this morning, the Everett City Council is expected to renew contracts with six other Snohomish County cities that will ensure the overcrowding continues for the next two years.
"We have a crisis situation," City Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher said Tuesday. "If we just say we're not going to renew, these animals will end up in our city limits anyway. We won't solve the problem by saying, 'We're closed for business.' "
Contracts with Arlington, Marysville, Monroe, Mukilteo, Snohomish and Stanwood will be considered this morning. A contract already is in place with Snohomish County, and several other municipalities are in negotiations. All the contracts are expected to be signed, even though that means certain death for many animals.
In 2004, 27 percent of all dogs and 43 percent of all cats at the shelter were euthanized, shelter activities coordinator Maryan Milam said. The same is expected this year and into the future, until the shelter is expanded or another municipality offers shelter services.
Everett City Council President Marian Krell recently assigned council members Stonecipher, Arlan Hatloe and Mark Olson to investigate solutions.
"They will decide whether we want to be a shelter for the whole county or if we just want to do our own," Krell said. "We just don't feel like we can continue doing business like we are now."
The problem continues to grow because the Everett Animal Shelter is the only city-funded shelter in the county, shelter director Bud Wessman said.
The North Snohomish County Animal Shelter in Arlington closed in 2000 when the facility was found to be inadequate. The closure sent more than 2,000 additional animals to the already crowded Everett shelter.
"We need to find a long-term solution and a facility that can handle growth in the community and in the animal population," Everett city administrator Larry Crawford said. "We're continuing to try to work with the other cities and the county."
Kay Joubert, director of Companion Animal Services at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society in Lynnwood, said her organization also is an authorized shelter in the county. PAWS contracts with Lynnwood and Brier.
"We used to contract with more communities, but we have chosen to change our flow and thus not have to euthanize healthy, adoptable animals," Joubert said.
In Everett, the overcrowding often leaves shelter staff with few alternatives. Contracts with other cities require the shelter to accept their animals.
"A stray is held for 72 hours," Milam said. "Then it becomes our property, and we put it up for adoption. But we don't have the capacity at this time to save them all. We just can't."
Forty percent of the Everett Animal Shelter's $890,000 budget comes from the $80 per animal fee it charges the county and other cities, Crawford said. That fee just covers the cost to run the shelter, officials said.
Everett Animal Control and the shelter have 10 full-time employees and about 100 volunteers, Wessman said. As the number of animals increases, the volunteers and staff work to develop creative methods to woo animal lovers to adopt.
Adult cats, often the group left behind as kittens and puppies are adopted, are taken to play at the Everett Senior Center. About 98 percent of those cats are adopted there, Wessman said. At outdoor events, volunteers outfit dogs with coats that say "I'm adoptable" and walk them through the crowds.
"That's been very, very successful," Wessman said. "We've been able to place close to 100 percent of the animals we've taken to those events."
When the shelter cages are crowded, healthy animals are offered to PAWS and other rescue agencies.
"If we have space, we rescue (from the Everett Animal Shelter) to give the animals another opportunity," Joubert said.
That's the last chance for many animals.
"Sometimes, all the kennels are full, and we know we're going to take in another 40 animals tomorrow," Wessman said. "We have to adjust accordingly."
Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Nortz / The Herald
Volunteers Ann Gibson (left) and Jodi Lakey tend to the dogs Tuesday at the Everett Animal Shelter.
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