Burien council extends CARES animal services contract

CLARIFICATION: While Burien CARES animal control officer Ray Helms is scheduled on duty at the CARES shelter 40 hours per week, he is also on call for emergencies 24/7 and many times has responded to 911 calls after hours and on days the shelter is closed.

“I want to reassure Burien residents that local animal control is available to them on an emergency basis at all times,” Helms said. “Part of the increased funding referred to in your article is to cover the salary of an additional part-time, nationally trained animal control officer to provide back-up coverage at times when I am out sick, on vacation, or otherwise unavailable. This was one of the improvement recommendations made in the recent audit report.”


Burien lawmakers on a 4-3 vote have extended to May 30, 2016 the Burien CARES animal services contract and increased its funding from $120,000 to $170,000 per year.

Animal services has been discussed by Burien council members for a long time and is a contentious issue in the current council election races.

Lakeview Park is located at 422 S.W. 160th St.

Press release:

Leash up your Pooch and come walk with us at Lakeview Park for our 4th Park N Bark. Meet other Burien dog owners and lovers and find out what B-Town D.O.G. is all about, while investigating Lakeview Park.

We will meet on the west side (6th Ave SW) at 11 a.m. Look for the balloons.

More Info-


A Better Burien for Animals – take the survey!

My organization is Feral Cat Assistance and Trapping, my name is Pamela Staeheli. I would like for you to participate in taking this anonymous survey so that I can provide the Burien Council and candidates with community feedback through this survey. The Council might be revisiting the animal control contract sometime this year. The survey will help clarify what the community wants and provide the council with better information to make a decision.

Animal control service will also be important during this year’s local Burien elections where the voters of Burien will be electing four Burien council members. To help inform voters, each of the 12 candidates will be asked to take the survey and participate in an endorsement process.

Please support this effort by taking the survey, telling your friends and neighbors about the survey, and finding out about Burien candidates. We’ll post the results of the survey at several different locations.

Please click on the link below.

Pamela Staeheli


A proposal was made by City Manager, Mike Martin at the April 15, 2013 Burien City Council meeting to extend the contract to CARES until 2016.

This extension would also give CARES and additional $50,000 per year and a 3% COLA to each of their three employees. Since CARES counts phone calls differently than RASKC, the number is highly inflated compared to other cities, something RASKC took into consideration when coming up with a cost for Burien to contract with them.

I believe that the City of Burien should renegotiate their contract for animal control services with RASKC (Regional Animal Services of King County).

The City of SeaTac with a 2011 population of 27, 430 (Wikipedia) recently got a contract for animal control services from RASKC for $107,000 per year. The cost of a contract with RASKC is based on several factors: the number of calls received, the number of animal intakes, minus license fees, a percentage discount and a reduction shared by cities in the group (the most compelling factor in the reduction of fees).

King County animal services estimate almost twice proposed CARES contract

The Burien City Council appears ready to extend the animal control and services contract for the controversial Burien CARES group and increase funding by $50,000 annually.

With the two-year contract extension, CARES would also be required to implement several recommendations made in an audit by Denise McVicker, deputy director of the Tacoma, Pierce County Humane Society.

Two King County representatives appeared before the council on April 15 to answer questions about operations of the Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC). Some CARES critics have suggested Burien return to contracting with King County for animal services. SeaTac and Tukwila contract with RASKC.

Sean Bouffiou, King County Records and Licensing finance administrator, estimated RASKC would charge Burien $418,000 per year minus pet licensing fees from the city. The net cost is pegged at $332,000 annually.

The proposed new Burien CARES contract is $170,000 annually. CARES has one animal control officer who covers the city and an animal shelter on Southwest 151st Street.


Clearly Burien citizens are now seeing what appears to be the "old boys city staff network giving contracts to their friends".

The City Manager is now proposing (see page 97 of the Burien City council Packet for April 15, 2013) giving an extended contract to CARES.

This extended contract is to include;
1. Extending the contract for CARES from 2014 to 2016 with no explanation of what new services CARES will cover and what animals they will provide services to.
2. An increase in the amount to be paid to CARES from $120,000 to $170,000 per year to CARES (an increase of $50,000 a year to CARES) with no explanation of what this increase will cover. It can be paid in advance to them and in lump sums to remedy their problems as noted in the McVicker evaluation.
3. There will be no competitive bids allowed on this new/modified extended contract to be extended another two years


At the Burien Council City study session on March 25, 2013, the city staff gave a report on the animal care and animal control non profit (CARES) that the city pays for, $120,000 per year-see the city packet of the meeting.

The city staff presentation packet seemed to skip a number of the points that should have been of concern to the city such as; currently animals that have bitten or acted aggressively to humans and domestic animals are being adopted to the public. This creates a huge liability on the placement agency and the contracting city for lawsuits. Also, if something happens to the animal control officer or the owner/director of CARES there is no one else available to take over the job and/or provide sufficient funding to keep CARES providing services to Burien.

Debi Wagner pretty well summarized many of the issues on CARES needing correction in her letter. -See


Two north Burien parks, about a half-mile from each other, have been identified as possible sites for an off-leash dog facility.

Steve Roemer, Burien Parks operations manager, told council members his department looked at parks owned by the city that were currently underutilized. He noted a city off-leash dog park would draw dog owners from within a 5-mile radius.

There are currently off-leash parks at Grandview in SeaTac and Westcrest in White Center.

Burien lawmakers at their March 25 study session indicated interest in a second dog park in the south end. Lakeview Park at South 160th Street and 6th Avenue Southwest was mentioned as a possible site

The two north end parks are Hazel Valley, 2.84 acres, at 251 S.W. 126th St. and Salmon Creek, 4.61 acres, at 700 S.W. 118th St. They were acquired by the Burien when the southern portion of North Highline was annexed in 2009.

Audit says CARES fulfilling contract, keeping pets healthy but recommends several improvements

Burien CARES.

Love it or hate it. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.

Burien Community Animal Resource and Education Society (CARES) is a nonprofit group that the city contracts with for animal control and services.

Debra George, co-owner of the Mark Restaurant and Discover Burien events director, heads it. She is not paid as CARES director.

There doesn’t appear to be any softening of positions on the group even after the release of an audit report by Denise McVicker, deputy director of the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County.

During a City Council study session on March 25, Burien city officials characterized the report as affirming that CARES is performing its contract with the city and treating animals in its care humanely. City Manager Mike Martin noted McVicker had given some recommendations on improvements that may cost more and expand services CARES is providing.

“This is a classic, young community-based organization that is doing everything right,” Martin declared. “It is time to get behind it. It has been through some rough times.”

Debate on Burien CARES continues after audit report
Photo credit: 
Photo by Jerry Gay

Toasty perches on the shoulder of Animal Control Officer Ray Helms at the Burien CARES shelter. Toasty was found hiding in a car engine and brought to the facility.

Based on the Burien CARES Program Evaluation in the Council Work Session packet for tonight, CARES is not head and shoulders better than the King County Animal Control Program-see pages 25-36 of the online packet.

For the last year and a half, the Burien City Manager/Mike Martin has been standing up before the public and declaring that CARES (provider of Animal Care and Animal Control for Burien) is head and shoulders better than the King County Animal Control program. He has repeatedly made this statement at public meetings, at annexation meetings and to the media. Denise McVicker, the Deputy Director of the Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County, has just completed an evaluation of CARES and here are some of her findings in the completed report that I believe will be glossed over tonight at the work session of the Council.

1. The staff is inadequately trained.
2. There is no coordinated mechanism for the pick up and reporting or description of dead animals in Burien so that the citizens looking for their animals can be apprised of information.

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