Editorial: Help WAIF help homeless critters

It’s admirable that Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation, commonly known as WAIF, has a very low rate of animal euthanasia when compared to shelters across the nation. Yet the conversation about how the community deals with unwanted pets should be a lot wider than just the question of how many dogs and cats are put down. For anyone who loves animals, a trip to an animal shelter on Whidbey or just about anywhere else can be heartbreaking. The dogs and cats aren’t happy in cages and they want out. Their fate depends on the goodwill of the community. Generous giving from pet lovers in the community already accounts for more than half of the group’s $250,000-a-year budget. Realistically, the best ways to improve the welfare of the homeless pets is for more residents to donate their time or money to WAIF. And dog and cat owners need to purchase licenses for their animals. The revenue goes toward the animal programs.

The WAIF nonprofit group contracts with Island County and Oak Harbor to run the animal shelters. They are considered minimum-kill facilities, which means the that dogs and cats are only put to sleep if they are sick beyond treatment or too dangerous to be adopted out. The one exception is that the city of Oak Harbor has a policy of euthanizing feral cats that are trapped and brought to the city’s shelter. Shelter staff members don’t like the policy and they hope it will change, but for now it’s in the contract with Oak Harbor.

WAIF’s greatest challenge is that the facilities are in poor shape. Island County owns the shelter building near Coupeville; the group has spent a lot of money trying to improve the building, but it’s still far from ideal. Fortunately, the group plans to build a new shelter across the street someday, as soon as funds can be raised. Oak Harbor’s shelter is located in a cramped, ramshackle building on the Navy’s Seaplane Base. At one time, city leaders placed the construction of a new shelter on a list of capital facilities projects. That idea has apparently fallen by the wayside, but the Navy has reportedly offered a more suitable building for the shelter. With luck and the continued support of the community, better days may be ahead for Whidbey’s strays.

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