Dog-kenneling costs to increase

Proposed agreement opts for higher annual fees over pricey shelter repairs

West Columbia Gorge Humane Society volunteer Linnea Justis (left) and WCGHS Board of Directors member Micki Simeone (right) play with Bailey, a 2-year-old dog that was up for adoption, in August 2017. (Post-Record file photo)

When it comes to the way missing dogs are handled in Camas and Washougal, it’s been a similar story for nearly 40 years: animal control officers pick up a missing dog and take them to the dog shelter in Washougal; owners typically fetch their dog and pay an impound fee within 48 hours; and the cities pay for dog-impound services on a per-dog basis.

Now, this process is facing a revamp, and the city of Camas could see its annual dog-kenneling costs jump from around $8,000 to $26,000 a year.

At a Feb. 3 council workshop, Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey told Camas City Council members that Washougal city leaders have already agreed to sell the city-owned Washougal dog shelter building, which is in desperate need of repair, to the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society (WCGHS).

To help pay for the building’s needed repairs and provide better service to the community, Lackey said, WCGHS has partnered with the larger Humane Society for Southwest Washington (HSSW).

WCGHS representatives said they are not yet ready to publicly discuss that new partnership.

If Camas city councilors approve the new agreement, HSSW would oversee dog-kenneling services for Camas and Washougal.

“The (costs for the) kenneling part of our contract will go up,” Lackey told council members on Feb. 3.

Camas currently pays between $4,800 and $8,400 per year for dog-kenneling services ($120 per dog with between 40 and 70 dogs picked up per year).

Under the new agreement, HSSW would charge the cities a flat, annual fee, increasing from $31,500 in 2020 to an annual cost of $52,500 in the future.

The cities would split the cost, meaning Camas would eventually pay about $26,000 a year for its dog-kenneling services.

Asked what would happen if Camas councilors did not agree to the new agreement with Washougal, Lackey said “that would place (Washougal) in a bind.”

“(Washougal City Manager) David Scott is pushing me to get this done as soon as possible,” Lackey said. “They’re definitely hoping it’s sooner rather than later. Their council has already approved these changes.”

Higher fees include ongoing shelter maintenance costs

Washougal city leaders approved the sale of the dog shelter building to the local humane society in January, and have asked Camas leaders to sign off on the new interlocal dog-impounding services agreement.

“Under the (new) proposal, we would not own the building,” Scott said. “WCGHS would own the building. That is a relationship that is similar to the rest of Clark County, where municipalities do not own and operate a shelter, or at least own a shelter — they contract for shelter services completely.”

Scott said the new agreement would mean Washougal no longer has to pay expenses to upgrade the dog shelter facility and “would not have to replace that facility when the time comes for it to be replaced.”

WCGHS would own the dog shelter building under the new agreement, and would continue to lease the land from the Port of Camas-Washougal, Scott said.

“Our shelter building is hurting a little bit,” Scott told Washougal city councilors in January. “It needs some repairs. … It’s not up to snuff right now.”

He said the city’s estimated cost to repair the dog shelter is $77,000.

Scott said both cities have been paying to maintain the dog shelter building, so the higher costs for the annual fee — as opposed to the “per-dog” fee — include some of those ongoing building-maintenance charges. The new fee also would help the humane society not pass dog-impounding costs on to donors, who typically want their money to go exclusively to the care and re-housing of homeless animals.

Lifetime dog licenses not the norm in county

Both cities currently use general funds to subsidize dog-impound services.

“Which is appropriate to some extent because it’s a general public safety function of the city,” Scott said in January. “On the other hand, some of the reasons for having some of those services is because of dogs that are owned by people.”

Scott told Washougal leaders in January that city officials would likely need to discuss dog license fees and other ways of offsetting the dog-impounding costs.

“As program costs potentially grow incrementally over time as we’re negotiating with our partners to eliminate their donors’ subsidy of the cost of impounding dogs, I think that revenue-enhancement conversation is part and parcel to that,” Scott said, asking council members: “What’s the real cost of that program on the community and how does the community pay for it?”

Currently, Scott said, he believes Camas and Washougal are the only two cities in Clark County that offer a lifetime dog license.

“All of the other communities have annual licenses,” he said. “As you can imagine, there is less general-fund subsidy in the animal control program when you’ve got a modest annual license for your pet as opposed to doing a lifetime license.”

The issue of dog license fees also came up at the Feb. 3 Camas City Council workshop.

Camas Councilwoman Bonnie Carter said she was “open to anything at this point” regarding how the city might pay for the rising dog-impound costs, and said she would like to discuss how Camas might recoup the fees “or offset them” and mentioned the possibility of raising prices on dog licenses.

Lackey is expected to bring more information about the dog-impound agreement to the Camas councilors at their workshop or regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

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