San Juan County needs animal control

Submitted by Jan Murphy

For several years a dedicated group of San Juan Island residents has attempted to promote the need for an animal control officer (or officers) here in San Juan County.

Despite numerous meetings with law enforcement officials, county leaders and concerned citizens, these efforts and concerns have been unanswered and, in most cases, ignored. Offers have even been made by non-profit organizations as well as private citizens to pay the expenses of sending a San Juan County deputy to Animal Control Certification classes. These offers have been ignored. Countless cases of animal neglect and abuse have been mishandled, disregarded or over-looked because our current Sheriff’s department apparently has little or no interest in providing our county with experienced, dedicated animal control officers.

Currently, San Juan County is one of only a small handfull of counties in Washington state that does not have an animal control department. This is shameful and shows a deep disconnect between what our county officials are tasked with doing and what they will actually take responsibility for.

While the San Juan Islands are an idyllic place to live for most, for many animals who live here life is anything but idyllic. Currently, several concerned San Juan Island residents are in the process of petitioning the county and Sheriff’s Department to finally intervene in an on-going case that has been unresolved for many years. The animals in question live on a property previously cited by county officials for health code violations, but not for animal welfare code violations, although it has been known for years that the farm owner continually violates those codes. The animals living on this farm are criminally neglected — forced to live in their own feces with inadequate food and water and little or no shelter. It is well-known that animal and human waste are not properly disposed of on the property. This puts neighbors and wildlife at risk, not to mention the harm caused to the animals forced to endure the extreme level of cruelty imposed there.

Sadly, this case does not stand alone. While it may seem hard to believe, there are many pet owners and farmers in the county who are in violation of state and county animal protection laws. Since these laws are very rarely enforced here, it is very easy and safe to neglect or harm animals in our county.

Simply put, this is unacceptable. What will it take to convince our elected officials that an animal control department must be a part of our county government?

What kind of community do YOU want to live in?