City Ron Sims Defends KC Shelters, Accuses Consultant of Operating from “Playbook”
posted by March 28 at 15:48 PMon
Last week, as was widely reported, a consultant hired by the King County Council released a report on the deplorable conditions at King County’s two animal shelters. The findings were pretty shocking: kennels covered in urine and feces; sick animals kept in a room with no cooling, heating, ventilation, or running water; sick cats that were “not provided the rudiments of food or water for over 24 hours and possibly longer”; bowls of food and water that stayed empty for days; filthy litter boxes; fabricated records; piles of dog waste all over the dogs’ exercise yard; dogs “languishing in [their] own waste”; and more. The report specifically calls out King County Executive Ron Sims for failing to make the shelter service “a priority. The Executive has not asked for any significant new funding for [the shelter program] for the past several years, has not spent the funds that it has (more than $500,000 now sits in a [shelter] donation fund that has not been used to improve operations as intended) and… has made a calculated decision that the current physical facility at Kent is not worth fixing.”
Pretty damning stuff. If you were the county executive, you might do damage control, right? Vow to spend that money improving the shelter and minimizing the number of animals that die due to unsafe or unsanitary conditions? Not Sims. Instead, he’s gone into offensive denial mode—attacking the county council, making paranoid statements about the consultant’s alleged bias, and using county staff to do a competing report (the results of which Sims has not released).
From the P-I:
“That did not happen,” Sims said. “No animals were without water, and animals were not without the food they needed.”
Spotting empty dishes in a cage does not mean they are never filled, Sims said. As another example, he said, “If you find feces on the floor, you can’t say that’s a constant issue.”
Sims’ staff also has sought to paint [consultant Nathan] Winograd, a California consultant and a national leader in the anti-euthanasia movement, as a single-issue zealot.
From the Times:
Like her boss two days earlier, Sims spokeswoman Carolyn Duncan blasted Winograd, who is a nationally prominent advocate of “no-kill” shelters. “He isn’t a neutral consultant taking an objective look at our animal-control facilities,” Duncan said. “He has a playbook that’s on his Web site. We’re in Steps 3 and 4 where you escalate it. It’s a revolution where there are good guys and bad guys.”
“I don’t agree we’ve allowed animals to starve or be without water,” Sims said in response to Nathan Winograd’s report Monday to the Metropolitan King County Council.
Sims said he is committed to improving procedures at the shelters and replacing the primary 32-year-old shelter building in Kent. He rejected the consultant’s claim that the executive branch has failed to respond to 10 years of complaints by volunteers and employees about conditions. Sims said he never heard those complaints.
“He’s not going to say that we were in denial or we’ve ignored it,” Sims said. “He hasn’t talked to me, he’s never met me, he doesn’t know what my feelings are.”
And here he is on KUOW this Wednesday morning:
This consultant never talked to me. It’s interesting—the consultant has a website, and he has a playbook, and he’s following his playbook … really religiously …
We have videos too; we have photos too; and we have logs detailing it. The same way a trial lawyer would look at accusations, we’ve gone through and said here’s what we found and here’s what we know.
We know this party, we know this consultant and this is not the first time he’s done it. And we’re saying fine, if [they’re going to] portray a facility and how we operate it inaccurately, then we’re going to challenge that.
What he said he saw and the photographs that are taken leaves much to dispute. He has made accusations that are completely unfounded. …
We’ve seen the playbook. He’s following his playbook. He does this everywhere. …
The person wrote a book and said basically we should never euthanize an animal …
We’re not going to arrive at what the consultant wishes to have, which is no kill.
Hmm, paranoid much, Ron? That nefarious-sounding “playbook” he and his staff are referring to is a list of suggestions on Winograd’s web site for people who want their local animal shelters to adopt a no-kill policy. Moreover, the county does strive for “no-kill.” That doesn’t literally mean that no animals are euthanized—rather, it means that no healthy, adoptable animals should be. Interestingly, the definition onf “adoptable” generally excludes pit bulls—a breed that makes up the vast majority of the dogs at the shelter.
Sims has been a bit of a loose cannon lately—railing against light rail, endorsing Republican Port of Seattle commissioner Bob Edwards (who was defeated by Gael Tarlton), advocating that the county sell off Boeing Field to the Port in exchange for a rail corridor with lower value—so it’s not exactly surprising to hear him making statements that are a little off the wall. But defending conditions that, at the very least, may be unsafe for animals by sticking your head in the sand and pointing fingers at the consultant—well, that’s just cuckoo. Not to mention bad politics.
(King County council member Dow Constantine is hosting a town hall meeting on the shelter issue in Burien April 14).