By Julie Muhlstein Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — After more than 20 years, the city of Lynnwood ended its agreement with PAWS to shelter stray and dangerous animals in part over concerns that the nonprofit wasn’t collecting city fees.
Instead, Lynnwood will send the animals to the Everett Animal Shelter.
On a 5-1 vote, with one member absent, the Lynnwood City Council decided Monday to approve a one-year contract designating the city of Everett as the provider of animal services for Lynnwood in 2014.
The change was requested by the Lynnwood Police Department, said Sid Roberts, the City Council vice president.
Roberts said Friday that Lynnwood sends relatively few animals to PAWS, which cost the city $50,000 this year, and the change is expected to save money.
“There has been a little bit of frustration on the city’s part during the contract period that PAWS wanted to give animals back to owners without fees being paid. PAWS is a wonderful organization, but I think the city has had a little frustration in terms of billing,” Roberts said. He said Councilman Christopher Boyer voted against the change.
Mark Coleman, a spokesman for Lynnwood-based PAWS, said Friday he was disappointed by the change. “It’s been a long relationship, 20 years,” he said. “I found out from a website that there was even a City Council discussion.”
A document submitted to the council by Lynnwood Police Chief Steven Jensen said that “there have been some incidents where PAWS wanted to give animals back to owners without the proper fees being paid which is a breach of contract.”
Jensen was not available to comment Friday.
According to the Lynnwood police document, Lynnwood’s annual lump payment to PAWS has fluctuated in recent years. “In 2010 we were paying $67,275 for these services,” the document said. “In recognition of budget reductions in 2011, PAWS agreed to a discounted one time only rate of $30,000.” The city paid PAWS $50,000 annually in 2012 and this year, the document said.
The document says that only about a third of the animals police deal with are taken to PAWS, with the majority returned to owners because of ID tags, licenses or imbedded chips.
The police document said PAWS bills other contract agencies on a per-animal fee, and that past discussions with the city would have put that fee for Lynnwood at about $169 per animal.
The new contract with the Everett shelter calls for a charge of $155 per animal for Lynnwood. The contact says Everett must give Lynnwood 90 days notice to change the fee, and must maintain “adequate records to support billings for a period of five years.”
The Everett shelter would also “collect all fees for each agency and remit them back via the monthly invoice,” according to the Lynnwood police statement, which added that the new agreement “presents an opportunity for the City to save money as compared to PAWS.”
Coleman said PAWS didn’t get a chance to negotiate a 2014 contract. “We cut the fee in half when the city was struggling. We have performed in good faith all along,” he said.
As for the assertion that PAWS hadn’t collected some fees, “we never got a chance to discuss it,” Coleman said. “Our first responsibility is to the animal, making sure the animal is in a safe home and environment. We try to be as flexible as possible.”
Coleman said PAWS is a low-kill shelter. Animals that are killed may be too ill or too dangerous to save, but “we don’t euthanize for space,” he said.
In 2012, according to the PAWS annual report, the agency euthanized 233 animals. That year, PAWS cared for 3,968 companion animals. Of those, 1,624 were placed in foster homes and 93.5 percent were saved.
In 2012, the Everett Animal Shelter euthanized 1,702 animals, according to shelter records. The Everett shelter adopted out 1,583 animals in 2012, transferred 1,629 to other shelters, and returned 828 to owners.
Another concern is that people who find stray animals in Lynnwood will need to drive to north Everett to drop off the animals at a shelter.
“While most people are willing to travel a short distance to deliver a stray animal, the new arrangement is going to require them to drive 30 minutes or more to deliver them to safety. In our experience, many people are willing to be good Samaritans as long as we make it as easy as possible. PAWS fears many of these animals will now be left abandoned, rather than receiving the help and care they need,” Coleman said.
Everett Animal Shelter Director Shannon Johnson was unavailable Friday. Meghan Pembroke, a spokeswoman for the city, said Everett also has contracts to shelter animals from unincorporated Snohomish County, Gold Bar, Granite Falls, Index, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Monroe, Stanwood and Tulalip.
“We have an open- admission policy,” Pembroke said, meaning the shelter would not turn away animals from areas with contracts. Although the Everett facility is not a no-kill shelter, Pembroke said, “we do work with rescue groups.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.