Voters to advise assembly on animal control

Voters on Oct. 7 will be asked to advise the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly whether the borough should exercise animal control practices.

At recent meetings, citizens have voiced concerns about abused and neglected animals in unincorporated areas.

At its July 1 meeting, the assembly passed a resolution sponsored by assembly member Brent Johnson of Kasilof to pose two advisory questions to voters:

• Should the borough exercise limited animal control powers in unincorporated areas?

• And should properties outside of cities pay a mill rate of 0.002 to pay for domestic animal rescue and care services?

Tim Colbath, who runs Alaska’s Extended Life Animal Sanctuary in Nikiski and has been advocating for a solution for borough-wide animal neglect and abuse for about 16 years, said he is “tickled pink” that the issue will be on the ballot.

Even though Colbath has been advocating for a program for years, he said his non-profit sanctuary won’t necessarily be the agency chosen to contract with the borough to enforce animal protection, if a program is enacted. But he plans to help raise awareness of the ballot proposition and educate voters about what the program would be designed to do leading up to Election Day.

He said while the question that will be posed to voters calls the program animal control, it doesn’t include animal licensing, registration and leash or confinement laws.

“All it does is address the existing state statues for the minimum standards of care and where necessary help the people,” he said.

The majority of animal abuse and neglect cases in the borough can be addressed without Alaska State Trooper intervention, such as situations where a dog is roaming a neighborhood and stealing food from pet owners’ bowls, he said.

“It gives the people somebody to call … where the animal is then taken and it’s got medical care it needs and is put up for adoption,” he said.

While troopers are the current go-to agency for animal control cases outside of cities, allowing the borough to contract with an entity for animal protection would lift that responsibility from troopers.

Troopers would become involved if, for example, an animal control officer visited a property where animal abuse or neglect was suspected and the owner threatened the officer or warrants needed to be acquired to rescue an animal. The cost of the program would be $3 annually for property outside of cities assessed at $150,000. According to the resolution, a 0.002 mill rate would generate about $95,000 for the program.

“That’s less than a cheeseburger or a gallon of gas … and the money is going straight to the animals,” Colbath said.

While Colbath thinks the proposition has enough public support to move forward, he does think push against implementing limited animal control will come from voters who don’t want the borough to fund non-profits.

But, he said, funding a non-profit to provide an animal protection program is not comparable to other non-profits or non-departmentals that the borough currently funds.

“People keep trying to lump a contractor that would be hired in this program as the same kind of non-departmental funding for a non-profit that everybody else is doing,” Colbath said. … “And it’s not comparable because (other borough-funded non-profits are) not giving the borough methodology to enforce state statutes.”

Kaylee Osowski is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. She can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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