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Wednesday, March 19, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sims defends care of animals

Seattle Times staff reporter

King County Executive Ron Sims defended his record on animal care Tuesday and angrily rejected a consultant's claim that dogs and cats have been neglected in two county shelters.

"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.

"Whether it's the volunteers or our own personnel, these are people who have made a professional choice on animal welfare and they're the last people on the planet who want to see an animal starve. They just won't do that. I disagree with that."

Winograd, director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, showed County Council members photographs and video clips of dirty cages and empty food and water bowls in the cat infirmary at the county's Kent shelter, saying the bowls weren't filled for two consecutive days during his visit last month.

Winograd also said poor sanitation practices at the two animal shelters make disease outbreaks likely, and he questioned whether Sims and his Animal Care and Control agency are capable of completing needed reforms.

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."

In a telephone interview, Sims, who as a County Council member sponsored a 1992 licensing ordinance that gave owners incentives to spay or neuter their pets, showed little patience for consultants or council members who question his commitment.

"If you look at the most significant reduction in euthanasia, it was brought about by my ordinance, from 13,000 [animal deaths] a year to 4,000, where we laid that in place over a great deal of ire. I had no friends. ... For people to say now, 'We're going to be the people who love animals more and the executive doesn't care,' I dismiss that as hot-air rhetoric because it's not supported by substance."

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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