Lewis County Moving Forward Next Year to Offload Animal Shelter Management to Private Entity

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Lewis County Public Health and Social Services is moving forward with a plan to find a contractor who will oversee future operations of the county’s animal shelter.

Public Health and Social Services Director JP Anderson said this week the county plans on publishing a request for either qualifications or proposals out to the public early next year. His department is beginning talks with internal and external stakeholders, including the sheriff’s office, about what next year’s request should look like.

“We also make sure we want to talk with people in the community, get feedback from people. What services are most important or what are they worried about?” he said.

Discussions about transitioning operation of the shelter into private hands has been brewing since before Anderson came on as Public Health director in late 2019.

Now, as the pandemic enters its 21st month and as the shelter looks forward following internal strife, the county is finally taking a hard look at the facility and its operations.

But there’s still a lot of discussion and planning to be done.

Anderson said though the county is moving forward with the transition, it is still in the process of determining what entity could take over or what the operation post-county management could look like.

“I think there’s such an interest in this work. I’m excited to see what local people might come up with. There’s definitely no frontrunner or discussion of one. I don’t know of a 501(c)3 or nonprofit in Lewis County that could do (the job) right now,” he said.

Lewis County is something of an outlier, Anderson said. It is likely the only county in the state that oversees its own animal shelter. Most others are overseen by nonprofits or humane societies.

More than $1 million in donations have already been given to the county for a new facility. There’s discussion underway that the old Kresky Avenue building, across the way from Yard Birds, could be renovated into a shelter after the Lewis County Planning Department and Environmental Health move next year to the downtown campus in Chehalis, Anderson said.

“It’s got places for green space behind it and it’s a good location that’s close to both Centralia and Chehalis, where obviously a lot of the stray animals come from,” he said.

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