It's a scenario all too familiar to animal control workers in Soldotna: Someone calls the animal shelter asking about the city's animal drop-off policies. Saying they've found a lost German shepherd in, say, the Echo Lake area, the person inquires as to the city's policy on dropping off strays. The animal control worker tells the person that the city charges a $25 drop-off fee for nonregistered animals. The person hangs up.
A couple hours later, animal control gets another call. Someone has found a German shepherd in the Fred Meyer parking lot. Animal control workers are dispatched, and the dog is picked up and brought to the city's facility. No fee is paid, and the dog is now the city's problem.
Kenai Peninsula cities footing the bill for animal control outside of town is nothing new, but it's something that city officials and workers consider to be one of major significance. In fact, according to Soldotna Animal Control Officer Marianne Clark, the issue is probably the biggest one facing the department.
"It's a huge, huge issue," Clark said Thursday.
At Wednesday's city council meeting, Soldotna City Manager Tom Boedeker said he has been in discussion with Borough Mayor Dale Bagley to try and get the situation remedied. Boedeker said he met with Bagley recently and found the mayor cautiously supportive of bringing the issue of animal control back before the borough assembly.
"We're in the talking phases," Boedeker said.
The assembly has in the past voted against giving the borough any kind of animal control powers. However, Boedeker said the issue is not going away for the simple fact that Soldotna continues to pay to clean up the borough's mess.
"It does cost the city a significant amount of money to deal with this problem," he said.
Although the city has no hard numbers that show how much of its annual $125,000 animal control budget goes toward controlling animals from outside the city limits, city Public Works Director Steve Bonebrake said the figure is believed to be quite high.
"Sixty-five to 85 percent of our workload is Kenai Peninsula Borough animals," Bonebrake told the council.
On Thursday, Mayor Bagley's assistant Ed Oberts said Bagley would be willing to again bring the animal control issue to the assembly, if borough cities say they want such a measure.
"He would be willing to try again at some point if the cities would be willing to support it," Oberts said.
Clark said she believes the best thing for the borough to do would be to pay the cities a fee for processing animals from outside of town.
"We would like some reimbursement," Clark said.
However, getting the assembly to do anything when it comes to animal control could be a tough proposition. Both the assembly and voters have shot down previous attempts to try and solve the animal control problem, and Clark said she believes the cities may still be facing an uphill battle.
"The borough residents do not want animal control," she said.
Until something is done, the problem of stray animals coming into town won't go away. And unfortunately, those who seem to suffer the most are the animals themselves.
Although people might have good intentions when they bring stray animals to the busy city facilities, Boedeker said it's likely those animals aren't going to be adopted.
"They're signing a death warrant for this dog or cat," Boedeker said. "Very few of them are adopted."
The city would like to adopt out all the animals that come into its facility, Bonebrake said, but that's simply not possible considering the volume of animals the city deals with each year.
"There's a lot more coming in than requests for animals going out," he said.
Although the cities and borough assembly might haggle over who should pay for stray animals, Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey pointed out that in the end, it's the pet owners themselves who really need to be more responsible with their animals.
"It's unfortunate we have to get into any kind of pushing and shoving with any cities or government entities," Carey said. "When the truth is, individuals should be taking care of their pets."
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.