The Pat Wise Animal Shelter.

The Pat Wise Animal Shelter.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly heard a presentation Monday night from Animal Protection Director Eddie Blackwood, who detailed how his department is responding to a critical analysis of the borough’s animal protection services.

Among the areas that consultant Chava Lee said could use improvement are customer service, public relations and outreach. Blackwood said that the department’s staff had a meeting, talked about ways to improve service, and everyone signed off on a plan to move forward.

Blackwood said the shelter staff members also are interacting more with the public through

Chava Lee listens to suggestions during a work session to explore options and improvements for the Ketchikan Animal Shelter.

Chava Lee listens to suggestions during a work session last fall to explore options and improvements for the Ketchikan Animal Shelter.

social media, updating the website more regularly, continuing with ads in local publications, and plan a series of radio public service announcements, “to talk about different things such as animal licenses, the importance of rabies vaccine, animal care, when your animal needs to go to the vet, adoptions, encouraging people to get involved in the volunteer program.”

Speaking of volunteers, the shelter has an active group and one of the suggestions in the analysis was making the department more welcoming.

“Worry less about liability, and more about being inviting and having these people involved more, working with the animals, participating in outreach programs and offsite programs,” he said.

Some on the Assembly wondered about the liability. Blackwood said most injuries are minor cat bites or scratches. Borough Attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen told the Assembly that a seriously injured shelter volunteer would be covered under the borough’s general workers compensation insurance program.

Blackwood did have a question for the Assembly. He said there is some interest in the community of establishing a controlled feral cat colony. The suggestion is to spay or neuter all feral cats, rather than euthanize them, then keep them in a large, fenced outdoor area, and provide them with food and shelter. Blackwood asked if the Assembly wanted him to pursue that kind of program.

Assembly Member Bill Rotecki asked how many cats would live in such a colony.

“As many feral cats as we get in a year, it could be quite a high number,” he responded.

“Hundreds?” Rotecki asked.

“Potentially,” Blackwood said.

The Assembly wanted more information before providing direction.

Following Blackwood’s presentation, Rotecki asked what he thought of the proposal to contract out shelter operations to a private organization. Blackwood said he can work with whatever the Assembly decides.

“My overall view on this is that we need to do what’s best for the animals,” he said. “If we can do that, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

The Assembly has directed borough management to draft a Request for Proposals, in hopes of contracting shelter services out. The borough would retain animal code enforcement powers.

Also Monday, the Assembly approved a motion to increase the borough’s sludge pumping fees. Borough residents with septic systems now pay a quarterly $45 fee for sludge pumping. The ordinance raises the quarterly fee to $57.18.

Assembly Member John Harrington voted against the ordinance.

The next regular Assembly meeting is Feb. 2.