Editorial: Animal shelter needs support

It is great news that Whidbey Animal Improvement Foundation will soon take over operation of the Oak Harbor Animal Shelter.

WAIF has a well-deserved reputation for caring for animals based on its years of experience running the Island County shelter south of Coupeville. Animals there are treated kindly with a minimal kill policy, pets are sterilized before adoption, a broad base of volunteers keeps the animals exercised and healthy, and WAIF managers to raise much of the money needed to operate the shelter and related programs through community fund-raising activities.

The operation in Oak Harbor has not been so gentle, mainly due to the burden being placed on a single contractor. Try as one might, there is no way one person can run a modern animal shelter. This minimalist operation required putting too many unwanted pets to sleep, resulted in poor living conditions inside the shelter due to lack of volunteers to help with the animals, and was generally an embarrassment to the city.

Police Chief Steve Almon ably led a committee that spent a year in a planning effort that resulted in WAIF taking over the shelter. The city council last week stepped up to pay the added costs a respectable animal operation requires. While the prior contractor was paid $58,000 annually to run the shelter and animal control, WAIF will receive $62,000 to run the shelter. The city will hire a control officer as a staff person, and throw in $40,000 for shelter repairs.

The city and WAIF have done their share to improve Oak Harbor’s treatment of unwanted animals, but the success of the endeavor ultimately depends on the people of Oak Harbor and North Whidbey.

First, WAIF will need more volunteers to help run the shelter and take care of animals. Anyone interested in volunteering or donating items or money should call 678-5816.

Second, the city took on an added financial burden in tight economic times. Residents can help with this simply by licensing their pets as required by law. Spayed or neutered animals only cost $10 a year, while fertile dogs and cats cost $35 annually. Purchase a license at city hall and do your part to enhance the care of unwanted animals in Oak Harbor.

Third, Oak Harbor needs a new animal shelter in a location convenient to the public. This area has many clubs and organizations looking for good causes to support. Perhaps it’s time to put some animal shelter fund-raising efforts on the calendar. And when citizens give to non-profit organizations, think of WAIF and the need for a new shelter when writing out checks.

They year 2005 promises to be the best in history for Oak Harbor’s unwanted dogs and cats. Thanks the city’s efforts, expect a lot more wagging tails and happy meows in town.

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