The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Fern Greenbank
LOG Editor 

Prop A addresses animal abuse


On Oct. 7, voters living outside city limits on the Kenai Peninsula will be asked to vote on an advisory only proposition that would give the borough the ability to exercise limited animal control powers for the purposes of domestic animal rescue and care related to rescue in the areas of the borough outside of the cities.

To get out the word about the proposition, proponents will be in Seward on Sept. 24. Members of the Domestic Animal Protection League (DAPL), will host an information meeting about the issue.

“We are just a grassroots group,” said Peg Snyder, a member of DAPL. “There are six of us and we just want to help in any way we can.”

Snyder said she began to see an increasing number of animal abuse cases over the years and, as an animal lover, she could hardly stand it. When she and members of the Kenai Dog Club became aware of the work underway at the borough level by animal rescuer Tim Colbath, they decided to get on board and help.

“He shined a light on how bad animal abuse had become in the Borough,” said Snyder. “We thought, if we can just help educate, we need to do that.”

Colbath said he has made a lot of people mad and annoyed more than a few people in his effort to get the borough to step in and help the animal rescue community on the peninsula. Colbath operates a non-profit organization named Alaska’s Extended Life Animal Sanctuary (AELAS) located in Nikiski.

“The KPB is the only second class borough of comparable size that does not have a process in place to provide just the minimum standard of care for animals,” said Colbath. “Right now, animal abuse and neglect cases are handled by the State Troopers and they do not have the time or the manpower to handle this function.”

Colbath said the proposition, as it’s written, is not asking the borough to take on the job of animal rescue. It asks for funding to provide training and support for an animal rescue organization that can be selected through a proper request for proposal, he said. The proposition is an advisory vote only at this time because that’s as far as Colbath could get the assembly to go. It asks voters if they would be willing to accept a .02 mill rate increase to address animal abuse in the borough.

“I know some people think I am criticizing the State Troopers,” said Colbath. “But I’m not. I have a lot of respect for the Troopers. They do a job that would scare me to death. But there is only so much they can do without training and more personnel.”

The program Colbath has asked the borough to adopt would work like this: Someone in the public wants to report a neglect or abuse situation. That person calls the contractor or a State Trooper. The contractor would send out a trained person to gather evidence and investigate, just like the troopers do now. That information would be discussed with the district attorney and the State Troopers. Based on evidence, warrants can be served and troopers could provide security for the animal rescue workers, said Colbath.

Currently, city animal shelters are not required to take in animals outside the city limits. Some of them do, just because they don’t want to turn away a desperate animal, said Colbath.

“There is a shoot, shovel and shut up unspoken policy,” said Colbath. “We want to provide a process that will not result in more animal abuse and unnecessary euthanasia.”

Colbath said the borough could also provide funding to city shelters to hire more people and expand facilities to take in borough animals but that idea has never gained traction at the assembly level.

The program proposed for the Kenai Borough eliminates the cost of hiring employees and paying benefits, said Colbath. The program asks only for minimal funding to help a non-profit take on a bigger role so the borough doesn’t have to.

The ladies of the Domestic Animal Protection League say they want to provide information to the public about the animal abuse and neglect situation on the Kenai Peninsula.

“It’s a desperate situation,” said Snyder with the DAPL. “Sometimes our only option is to leave an animal in a catch box which is heartbreaking.”

Snyder and her group are also concerned about the increasing body of knowledge that connects animal abuse with human abuse. Snyder and Colbath say domestic violence is often associated with animal abuse and many women are hesitant to leave abusive relationships because they don’t want to leave their pets behind for fear they will be harmed. This social issue just adds to the urgency of the situation said Snyder and Colbath.

“We need this to be a landslide,” said Snyder. “We need the borough to know that more than just the few vocal people are in favor of supporting animal rescue work.”

Snyder said since she and the other members of the DAPL started attending meetings and spreading the word, they are approached by people who say “thank you” and “it’s about time.”

Colbath is hoping voters will give the proposition some serious thought so the borough assembly will listen to the advisory vote and act.

“We have people from Moose Pass to Cooper Landing willing to go through training,” said Colbath. “We want to intervene in a nonconfrontational way and most abuse and neglect situations can be resolved without intervention if done correctly.”


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