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Friday, March 28, 2008

Ron Sims Defends KC Shelters, Accuses Consultant of Operating from “Playbook”

posted by on March 28 at 15:48 PM


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).

RSS icon Comments


These are pit bulls? Fuck, why didn't you say so at the beginning of the post? Kill 'em all.

Posted by Marky D. Sade | March 28, 2008 3:52 PM

The first step is to admit that there is a problem. Denying that there isn't one and blaming the messenger isn't going to make it go away.

Posted by rexmundane | March 28, 2008 3:57 PM
3 top-two primary system...Bob Ferguson making no secret of his long-term ambitions on the county executive's office...Sims out of step with substantial segments of his base. Could be an interesting 2009.

Posted by Trey | March 28, 2008 4:03 PM

I have spent a lot of time at the KEnt animal shelter, and that place is pretty nice as far as animal shelters go. The seattle one on 15th though is a fucking pit.

Posted by opus | March 28, 2008 4:20 PM

Nathan Winograd has some grand ideas. The "no-kill" policy is certainly an ideal. If you read up on him, he has a lot of great ideas on ways to reduce the number of animals euthanized. But what he never mentions is the cost. All of the programs he suggests require more manpower, and therefor cost more money.

I think it's super if we had a "no-kill" policy in King county. But are we, as taxpayers, willing to shell out the extra money to make that happen? And since the county is facing a budget shortfall, and must cut spending, what other programs are we willing to cut from the county budget in order to throw more money at the shelters?

It always kinda sucks when pie-in-the-sky idealism has to face the reality of budget constraints.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | March 28, 2008 4:42 PM

Horrors! Ron Sims thinks it's just deplorable that the consultant they hired has an agenda to create no-kill shelters! Gosh - taking care of animals so they are healthy, happy and adoptable. What a concept! Sometimes your stupidity is breathtaking, Ron.

Posted by crazycatguy | March 28, 2008 4:46 PM

It's like he's just daring Bob Ferguson to run ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 28, 2008 4:49 PM

List things we can do to help. volunteer info, shelter lists, phone numbers. I know if it was posted I would help out.

Posted by Alex | March 28, 2008 5:52 PM

Sims has become the consummate bureaucrat. Responsible for nothing, accountable to nobody.

Posted by Dave Coffman | March 28, 2008 6:45 PM

How come no one has asked why the King County Council used my tax money to hire a consultant at all, much less a consultant from California, and much less a consultant from California with a known bias in any direction?

I'm not making any excuses for Sims, but before I buy into the knee-jerk Pavlovian shit (SIMS BAD! SMASH SIMS!)that I see around here every day, I'd like an answer to my question.

Posted by ivan | March 28, 2008 9:05 PM

Actually, it's not just Dow Constantine that's holding a hearing on this, it's Bob Ferguson.

Add that to Ron's anti-light-rail position and backing Sen Clinton, and you're looking at someone putting so many political targets on himself, you have to ask yourself: "What is going on in his head?"

Does he not get that Seattle is the block of votes you need to keep the King County vote?

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 29, 2008 1:39 AM

Let's not forget the whole scandal with conditions and treatment at King County Jail.

Posted by Greg | March 29, 2008 7:22 AM

Maybe this will seem important after Guantanamo is closed.

Posted by Cut Puppy | March 29, 2008 7:38 AM

What other cities did this consultant do studies for? Where his findings similar in those places, and were any of his claims proven wrong? If Sims is saying this guy is biased, I think the press would examine his past to see if that claim has any basis. Of course, I do expect the press to do this for me, as I'm far to busy doing very important things to look for my self.

Posted by steve | March 29, 2008 10:58 AM

Sims' somewhat monarchical style and increasing incoherence is starting to wear on me. The idea of Ferguson as county exec is a refreshing idea.

Posted by Simac | March 29, 2008 2:28 PM

Check out the shelter before making comments either way. I used to go in there weekly and the dogs were well fed and watered regularly and old poop was never there, with as many dogs as are in the shelter, it would be expected to have a pile once in a while.
Those volunteers are there exercising the animals, something not done at most shelters and there never at that time was an adoptable dog euthanized. I live across the mountains now but check out things before deciding what is going on.

Posted by Pat | March 29, 2008 9:05 PM

I used to be a KC animal control officer, and for the record, while we were understaffed and waaaaay overcrowded, the animals didn't live in the conditions described. Either this isn't true, or things have really changed in the past couple of years. Somebody would go around at LEAST every hour and rinse waste out of the runs, and the runs and cat cages got a thorough cleaning every day. The critters were all fed daily, and nobody went without water for more than a few hours, max (sometimes they knock over their bowls. . . going without water for a few hours is not torture. . . how often do YOU actually drink water?) .

So, basically, I'm skeptical.

They do need a bigger, better shelter and more staff, though.

Posted by violet_dagrinder | March 30, 2008 3:29 PM

@10: The Council hired a consultant because a citizens committee report issued last September called shelter conditions "deplorable" and made 47 recommendations to improve shelter operations. Council members don't need permission from Ron Sims or even you, Ivan, to do their jobs.

Posted by J.R. | March 31, 2008 12:47 PM

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