Voters in the Kenai Peninsula Borough might have an opportunity to weigh in on animal control at the ballot this fall. The Borough Assembly will introduce an ordinance to put a question on the fall ballot about whether or not the Borough should fund domestic animal rescue.
Animal control is a touchy subject. Some cities in the Borough have their own laws and some even fund animal rescue operations. But out in the unincorporated areas of the Borough, there are no laws. The only recourse for people, if they see an animal being neglected, abused or endangered, is to call the State Troopers, who don’t always have time or resources to deal with those problems.
Tim Colbath runs the Alaska Extended Life Animal Sanctuary in Nikiski. He’s been trying to get the Borough on board since the late 90’s. He’s says it’s a bigger issue than just picking up stray dogs and feral cats.
“You’ve got horses, llamas, cows, just about every domestic animal that you can think of. The people end up in jail, they move away. These animals get abandoned for a whole multitude of reasons.”
Colbath’s operation has said it could take on a lot of those responsibilities for about a hundred thousand dollars a year. Potentially, that money could come from a very small increase in the mill rate outside the Borough’s cities, of 2.002 mills. For a $150,000 property, that’s an extra three bucks per year.
Colbath says the proposed program isn’t animal control in the classic sense, with leash laws and other onerous rules. Its primary mission is rescue.
“And you can look at the Ketchikan-Gateway Borough, they only have 13,000 people, they spend half a million dollars a year on animal control. To turn this into animal control would take a vote of the people.”
He says the true scope of the problem on the Kenai is greater than people think.
“The Mayor’s report in August said that there was a half a dozen cases a year. We’ve already handled over a dozen this year. And those are cases we can actually address without the troopers.”
The ordinance the Assembly will eventually vote on is just asking to put an advisory vote on the fall ballot. That’s largely a symbolic move, designed to see how much support there is for such a program in the general public. But even though it’s a small step, it’s an important one.
Colbath says he’s got the support to get the question on the ballot no matter what the Assembly decides.
“We’ve got the people lined up to do the petition if it’s necessary. I don’t think we’re going to have much of a problem getting the 1,288 signatures we need to get it on the ballot.”
As its written now, the proposition asks two questions: should the Borough exercise limited animal control powers for the purposes of domestic animal rescue and also, should there be an increase in the mill rate to pay for it. That increase would only be applied to properties outside of organized cities.