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PAWS pulls tax district proposal

By Phil Wright

Staff Writer

Published on August 3, 2018 12:04PM

The tax to fund a Umatilla County animal control district will not appear on the November ballot.

The Pioneer Humane Society, which operates the Pendleton Animal Welfare Shelter, worked on a petition to put the initiative to the voters in all Umatilla County cities besides Hermiston and Milton-Freewater, which have their own services. That required approval from the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners.

During the county board’s meeting Wednesday morning in Pendleton, Amy Word with the Pendleton-based Humane Society said the organization wanted to postpone the proposal. Word did not give a reason for the move.

But Commissioner George Murdock said voters in the county have grown tired of new taxes for districts, and some people are going to breathe a sigh of relief this measure is not going on the ballot. Still, he said animal control remains an issue in the county.

“I still think animal control is a matter of policing,” he said, and suggested the county should look at its budget for possible funds to cover the work.

Commissioner Larry Givens suggested the Pioneer Humane Society could look to how the Blue Mountain Humane Society in Walla Walla conducts business because it receives no city or county money. He added that funding animal control would open the door for other organizations to ask the county to fund their missions.

And Commissioner Bill Elfering said there is a need for the animal shelter and the work it does, but providing for a county-wide district would be difficult. He said the county has to distribute its funds equitably and suggested the group look for grants, including from the county.

“It’s absolutely clear we’re not united in our belief where animal control fits into the scheme of things,” Murdock responded, noting that he felt it was an issue the county should address.

Jackie Carey, Pioneer Humane Society president, told the board animal control is a county-wide problem. Some locals dump their pets in the county’s jurisdiction, and the sheriff’s office is already fielding those calls. And while grants help cover the cost of spaying and neutering animals, she said they do not pay for day-to-day operations.

But Pioneer Humane Society is not throwing in the towel on public funding. Carey said the organization plans to seek contracts with cities for animal services.


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