The Pat Wise Animal Shelter.

The Pat Wise Animal Shelter.

One of the discussion topics during last week’s Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly policy planning session was the future of the borough-run Animal Protection Department. The Assembly agreed to move toward contracting the shelter portion of the service to a private business or organization.

What to do about the animal shelter has been an ongoing question for Ketchikan residents, especially the pet lovers in town.

The current shelter has structural limitations that make it challenging to provide good care for rescued animals. It’s also generally considered uninviting for humans, with its cramped entrance, lack of natural light and completely inadequate parking.

The borough has set aside money to remodel the Pat Wise Animal Shelter, but has been holding off on spending that money because there was talk of potentially moving the shelter to a new building, or, maybe, contracting that service out.

The Borough Assembly didn’t like the idea of a new building. The only one identified is available for lease, not purchase, and would need remodeling. Spending money on the current building wasn’t popular, either. Here’s Assembly Member Alan Bailey: “I would not want to put a lot of money in that building. Trying to make a diamond out of a pretty rough piece of coal there.”

Contracting shelter services out though? That was more appealing.

“We need to try to get the shelter under management outside of the borough,” said Assembly Member John Harrington, who has worked with the Ketchikan Humane Society and is working with Groomingdales owner Gretchen Moore on establishing a new nonprofit animal rescue organization.

Groomingdales is a commercial boarding kennel that also has a pet supply store.

Harrington says the Humane Society and Moore are both potentially good candidates for operating the shelter for the borough.

The Assembly agreed to move forward with a Request for Proposals for shelter services, which Assistant Borough Manager Cynna Gubatayao says should not take too much time, because a general RFP already has been written. That RFP, though, included all animal protection services.

“This scope of work is very broad,” she said. “I would go back, based on the direction that we’ve just been given, where you’re more interested in considering separating shelter from enforcement. I would go back and review this scope of work and make sure it’s that focused.”

Assembly Member Mike Painter wondered about the fiscal affect.

“Before I would decide one way or another, I would like to see the costs involved,” he said. “What’s it going to look like? Is it going to cost us more? Are we gonna save money? Is there going to be a reduction in staff if we go strictly to enforcement?”

Gubatayao says final costs can’t be known until a proposal is received. Assembly Member Glenn Thompson said it’s likely that borough staffing will remain the same, in order to provide adequate enforcement.

Thompson added that he would like to provide plenty of time for potential contractors to write their proposals. He suggested three months, and Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst agreed.