Photo by Steve Shay
Left is CARES Director, Debra George. Right is staffer Monica Fowler. CARES (Community Animal Resource & Education Society) officially opened July 16. These kitties are ready for adoption.

Director of Burien's new animal rescue facility urges public to visit to assuage controversy

The City of Burien's animal control provider, CARES (Community Animal Resource & Education Society), officially opened its new shelter at 909 SW 151st St. July 16, after receiving required permitting and approvals from the City and passing its final inspection by the King County Health Department on July 15.

It invites the public to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new pet shelter on Tuesday, July 24, at 4:00 p.m. with cake and refreshments. Dog and cat treats will be available so bring your pets. The public can stop by between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. to tour the new shelter, and maybe even adopt a cat or dog. You can also view a privately owned pet daycare located next door, Paws and Relax.

Controversy

The Highline Times asked CARES volunteer director, Debra George, to address harsh complaints made by commenters responding to media articles on the facility. George was raised in St. Louis, and operates Mark Restaurant and Bar about one block south of CARES with her partner. She is also Discover Burien's special events manager. (Not board member as we previously reported in error.)

She has two paid employees, Monica Fowler, and Ray Helmes, their Animal Control staffer. CARES currently has nine dogs and three cats, including three remaining adoptable Chihuahuas rescued from the October incident when detectives and animal control officers raided a Burien house and found 38 Chihuahua, Pomeranian and Japanese Chin dogs.

CARES works closely with at least two area veterinary clinics, including one open 24/7.

Debra George:

"CARES just opened up here. We came in the first of the year and have been working on the new facility since then. We didn't get our building permits until February. Most of everything you see here was put together by volunteers, money out of our pockets , volunteers' pockets, or working deals. I like to say this is 'a community shelter by the community for the community made out of love'.

"It kind of morphed into the barn design. We had one volunteer who did most all the construction. It pained us to see cats sit in their litter boxes. We had that in our old facility, and saw that at King County, too. We researched and saw that cats get their exercise by climbing, so we gave them three levels to climb (in each 'condo' or shelter). Their litter box is placed below.

"Regarding the inspection and violations, it's no different than anyone else starting a new business. A building inspector comes in, just like in a restaurant, same thing. We'd focused in on ventilation and things like that. They wanted more painting done and we did that and passed."

(CARES passed its final inspection by the King County Health Department on July 15.)

"Before we had our own facility we operated by using other people housing our animals, foster families and vets. Our process is the same as we've always had. An animal comes in and immediately goes to the vet to get their shots and get checked out. They are kept away from our other animals for three days.

"We took the contract June of last year when we needed a place to house our cats while our dogs would be housed off premise. Initially we leased space from the doggy daycare Paws and Relax on 153rd. We always had the plan to move into a bigger facility together.

"The controversy then was that people said they couldn't find us, and that we were in the ally. It wasn't great, but it was a location that was permitted, that we could work our arrangement out. We were there for about nine months. When we got this building, Paws and Relax then became our tenant. It's a win-win for both of us. Their animals and our animals can come in and out and to socialize in the 8,000 square foot, centrally-located building."

Complaints about unreturned phone calls

The Highline Times received comments from at least two individuals claiming that CARES does not return phone calls or emails. The individuals complain that when you call 911 after a dog bite, or to report a stray aggressive dog, 911 operators refer you to the old King County animal control, which no longer serves Burien, and you have to find your own way to Burien CARES. You then leave a message for Burien CARES, which they don't return or give any indication that they are working on the issue.

"We get up to 300 phone calls a month," George responded. "We prioritize the calls, vicious dog attacks and bites our our highest priority, compared to someone calling to say they've spotted a wandering dog. Monica is here and answers the phone Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. If she misses a call, she checks messages throughout the day. If there is an overnight emergency we tell callers to phone 911 and the police and fire departments know how to get a hold of us day or night."

The Highline Times phoned Burien Police Department's dispatch and they said that the department does refer you to Burien CARES, but added that if you call from a cell phone, and are unsure of your current location, they may consider sending you to King County animal control instead if they believe you are not in Burien.

"I don't understand why we were dragged through the mud by some. I think people want to believe in negativity. Sometimes the more you stick your neck out the more you become a target. No doubt this is a difficult project, but we continue to make improvements. Come in. Take a look at our facility. Look and see. We have nothing to hide."

CARES seeks volunteers. See contact information about volunteering at CARES on the website: www.buriencares.com. Donations are also accepted. CARES has a "Wish List" on the Amazon website. Go to www.amazon.com and look for "Wish List" in the upper right corner. Enter "CARES Burien." Also find them on Facebook: "Burien C.A.R.E.S."

You can also reach them at (206) 812-2737. In an emergency situation, such as a vicious and threatening dog, contact the Police Dept. by dialing 911.

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