King County (WA) to Privatize Animal Shelter

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard the term “privatization” demagogued and demonized—see “Social Security” or “Water” for starters. It makes me wonder if the antis ever pay attention to stories like this:

Members of King County Council say they’ve had it with the state of animal services. On Sunday afternoon, council members announced plans to get out of the animal shelter business and privatize the county’s animal services. The announcement follows a series of problems with King County animal services that have made a lot of headlines in the last year. The problems ranged from substandard conditions to poor animal care. Council members said Sunday the situation is so far beyond repair, they want out. King County leaders brought in four independent experts and groups to look at the shelter. They all agreed that conditions were deplorable. After giving $1 million to improve conditions back in April, the council now says the improvements aren’t enough. So on Sunday, they announced their recommendation for the county to partner with a community agency to provide shelter services.

Hats off to the Council for recognizing that running an animal shelter is not a core government competency—hence the “deplorable” conditions—and is taking the initiative to turn it over to private sector/nonprofit operation, rather than continue to pour taxpayer dollars into a situation that is not likely to improve under government operation. Local governments across the country should be scouring their services to look for similar opportunities to right-size government and improve service delivery outcomes. And in case you missed it, Reason recently profiled King County Executive Ron Sims in Innovators in Action 2008 on the Seattle metro’s innovative approaches to improving mobility and reducing congestion through market-based approaches. Well worth a read.