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Originally published October 3, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 3, 2007 at 10:32 AM

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Vicious cycle Editor, The Times: I read with interest your article about the two King County animal shelters ["Local animal shelters 'deplorable,'...

Shelter conditions far from perfect

Vicious cycle

Editor, The Times:

I read with interest your article about the two King County animal shelters ["Local animal shelters 'deplorable,' panel says," Local News, Sept. 28]. A Kent animal-shelter employee recently told me that animals are euthanized when they become vicious or sick. However, the employee also explained that the animals become vicious after sitting in those small cages, day-in, day-out, for weeks and months at a time with no exercise and little human contact.

It is misleading that the animal control annual report doesn't explain why animals become vicious. I look forward to adopting happier and healthier animals in the future and hope that the county and other homeowners' associations will reconsider their two- or three-pet limitations.

These animals deserve better.

— Deborah Stuart, Kent

Improvements slow but steady

I am writing in response to "Local animal shelters 'deplorable,' panel says" and to share my experience overseeing the King County program from 1990 to 2002. I strongly disagree with the committee's sweeping indictments about "deplorable" conditions.

For lost, abandoned and frightened pets, King County shelters provide a temporary haven from the dangers of the street. These orphaned dogs and cats are kept warm and well fed, they receive medical treatment and veterinary care and they are "safe"; many for the first time. The paint and wallpaper are of no concern to these orphaned puppies and kittens, dogs and cats.

Let us remember that King County's shelters currently handle 1,000 dogs and cats each month. The majority of these pets find new homes and loving owners through King County's Pet Adoption and Foster Care Program. Sadly, not all lost dogs and cats can be saved or adopted.

King County Animal Services is a public agency and is funded by taxpayers and pet owners through licensing fees.

Can this program be better? Are the present shelters old and in need of updating or replacement? Should more officers and staff be added? Of course, the answer is "yes" to each question — if funding is available.

Let's look at the record. In 1990, more than 80 percent of our dogs and cats were euthanized each year; a staggering and unacceptable figure. As a result, I was deeply involved with and responsible for the development of King County's Model Animal Control program. It was developed to improve and modernize the King County program.

As a result of working with a Citizens Advisory Committee, euthanasia rates were lowered to 20 percent; a veterinary clinic was added to the Kent Animal Shelter; pets received medical treatment and care; all incoming animals received immunizations; each pet was scanned for a microchip ID; and a foster-care program was implemented. Great strides were made with these upgrades.

I note that the current Citizens Advisory Committee did not include any public-agency representatives, such as Seattle's animal-control director or shelter manager or the Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society's director, to provide technical expertise and insight. Both agencies have operations similar to King County's in size and scope. Non-pet owners were also missing.

I assume the unbalanced committee makeup was a regrettable error, somehow overlooked by the committee sponsors.

It is my hope that the committee's review of King County's services and shelters will result in greater support and more cooperative initiatives for this vital program. I urge the committee members and critics to become advocates and supporters of the Animal Services program.

I also urge everyone to not forget the improvements and achievements of the program over the last 15 to 20 years. I am proud to have been a part of these upgrades and initiatives.

— Vicki Schmitz Block, former animal control chief and assistant manager, Seattle

Proposition 1

Investigate — not cheer

It's hard to take "Why Sims turned against 'Roads & Transit' " with a straight face [News, Sept. 28]. Instead of functioning as a news article, it rebuts political ads which debunk the rosy pictures presented by transit proponents.

This might be reasonable if we faced a startup of a new system. Everyone knows that The Times supports mass transportation; no matter the cost. But we are asked for a blank check, on trust, by an organization which has no accountability to the voters. It's the Sound Transit board, which is appointed, not elected. As the first round of light rail showed, its members are shielded by their antidemocratic appointments, even when the reduced scope and doubled cost of its 1996 inaugural project proved them untrustworthy. No heads rolled then, and none will in future, in case Proposition 1 should repeat the first underestimated costs of Sound Transit.

It would behoove The Times to act as properly skeptical journalists, rather than a cheerleading team, when it comes to mass transportation issues.

— Hank Bradley, Seattle

Empty promises

I will vote against Proposition 1, for a reason cited by no one else I know of.

In 2006, I voted for a different Proposition 1 that increased Seattle's property taxes to pay for street and road maintenance. One of the promises made for that levy was that the city would replace every street sign. Almost a year later, half of the signs in my neighborhood (Magnolia) are old and unreadable. This isn't rocket science. If they haven't done the work by now, they never will.

If the city government won't keep last year's promises, I see no reason to fund another bunch of promises that will be ignored once we give them money.

— Charles Pluckhahn, Seattle

A cultural comparison

On a recent visit to Vancouver, B.C., I stayed with a family for a few days and had the time to ask them about their light rail.

"Light rail is great," they replied, "you can get to downtown in no time at all. But it's very dangerous because of the sexual assaults, muggings, and robberies."

— Howard Stoppelman, Kirkland

50 years of space travel

What science means today

The ideas that were presented in the editorial "The week that was, Sputnik in 1957" [Oct. 1] had a great impact on my life. Science was wonderful until I realized that nuclear energy produces a lot of hazardous waste. DDT kills more than just mosquitoes. New life begins at fertilization, but we can manipulate, exploit and destroy it.

We have learned to extend our life span, but has science helped us to appreciate the wonders of life? We need to explore the good. Without it, there is no direction, purpose or value to science, technology or education.

— Tim Carney, Seattle

Joint Training Facility

Legal doesn't make it good

The article on the Joint Training Facility misses one important point: environmentalists and community members asking for repairs have no interest in halting construction of the training facility ["State rejects effort to block firefighter-center construction," Local News, Sept. 29]. In fact, the proposals for wetland repairs are carefully designed to avoid the footprint of the facility altogether, and will not affect buildings or operations.

The proposed work will go a long way toward repairing the damaged habitat and preventing harm that can be expected from the city's planned diversion of water from the creek. Ecologists' finding that the diversion is not illegal doesn't make it a good environmental policy.

South Park resident John Beal spent decades restoring this and neighboring streams in the community; we owe it to him and to ourselves to protect the spaces he has carved out in our dense urban and industrial South End for us all to enjoy.

— BJ Cummings, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, Seattle

Fighting malaria

Gates is doing good

As I was reading "Please, Mr. Gates, look closer to home" [Northwest Voices, Sept. 27], I was surprised at the negative tone. The letter suggesting not controlling malaria in fear of overpopulation is difficult to support. In fact, treating malaria would likely increase GDP (The World Health Organization suggests about 1.3 percent increase in economic growth in countries with malaria control). Countries with higher GDPs tend to have lower birthrates. Malaria has higher incidence in areas of poverty and higher birth rates.

According to WHO, malaria has 300-500 million new cases and more than 1 million deaths per year. Cholera has about 132,000 cases and more than 2,000 deaths per year worldwide ["Motivation, anyone?" Northwest Voices, Sept. 27]. In regard to DDT, it is still used in malaria-infected countries, and USAID and WHO support the selective use of DDT.

Much of the reason DDT was used less was that mosquito resistance was developing along with environmental damage (e.g., bald eagle) ["We're spraying up the wrong tree," Northwest Voices, Sept. 27].

In regard to New Orleans, the failure of our government is most to blame ["Don't forget that home is where the hurt is," Northwest Voices, Sept. 27]. Think if we only took the now $600 billion we've wasted in Iraq, we could have rebuilt the Gulf Coast and had money left over for malaria research and control. The issue is priorities. Our current government leaders have chosen war. At least the Gates family has chosen to let its money help people in need.

— Thomas Derleth, Bellingham

Missing woman

Tracing phone calls isn't always bad

Our government will eavesdrop illegally on its citizens without probable cause in the name of defending us from terrorism, yet it will not trace a cellphone call to save the life of a missing person, as in the case of Tanya Rider ["Last phone call steered search," Local News, Oct. 2].

Go figure!

— Michael Barr, Sammamish

Visitors unwelcome?

Lack of hospitality

To the Citizens of Seattle:

During a visit to your beautiful city last weekend, I rented a car, bought items at the Pike Place Market, stayed in a hotel and spent money on various meals. Since I have family in the Pacific Northwest, I will be returning again to spend more money in your city, but when I checked my rental-car bill, I noticed the taxes were almost as much as the rental itself.

I know that you think you need things like baseball stadiums and other luxuries, but when you pay for these things by taxing guests, you are not enlightened, you are just selfish.

— Jim Van Ry, Sioux Center, Iowa

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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