Dog program at the end of its leash

"Chilly winter nights, no patient master's feet at which to curl up and doze, and not a supper dish in sight.Pity the stray dogs of Bainbridge - and pity this community as we try to find a new way to help them get home.Indeed, we were dismayed this week to learn that the local chapter of the Progressive Animal Welfare Society is at the end of its leash, as longtime volunteers Don and Marilyn Shaver retire. The couple's phenomenal efforts - taking in innumerable strays and tracking down their owners, at all hours and for no tangible recompense - are documented elsewhere in this issue. We urge readers to consider their story, a tale as remarkable as it is cautionary. Compounding the bad news is word that the Kitsap Humane Society's adoption outreach center on Winslow Way is closing its doors as well. Maintaining the storefront, which counted unsuccessfully on over-the-counter sales of pet goodies for support, proved a financially liability for the society. The hopeful spin is that the outreach program will see renewed vitality by going mobile - a new pet adoption van is planned to make regular stops on the island and elsewhere in the county, chock full of eager dogs and cats looking for homes. But the scope of the program, its schedule and hours have yet to be determined.But back to the Shavers, in whose tale we see the double-edged sword of volunteerism. On the one hand, their efforts are the hidden foundation of the community - citizens giving of their own time to serve their neighbors. The drawback, alas, is that such heroics often mask the acuteness of the need. With the Shavers' retirement - and we salute them for their amazing efforts - we are about to learn how desperately this community counts on PAWS and its service.PAWS officials and the mayor are talking about more public funding, and we'll withhold judgment until someone comes up with a tangible proposal. But our immediate advice would be this: Don't hold your breath. The recent hikes in the Bainbridge property tax rate came with the promise that local officials would start looking for programs to cut, not new ones to add. We suspect the city council will find extra money in the budget for animal-control services about the time dogs figure out how to turn a doorknob and let themselves out.In the meantime, the need grows.It would be great if someday we'd be put out of business, because there were no more stray animals, Kitsap Humane Society employee Kathy Cocus told us recently. She is not optimistic about that prospect, and neither are we.Perhaps it's time for an animal services summit, to identify local needs and coordinate efforts between PAWS, the Humane Society and the many animal lovers who call the island home. What are the financial needs? How many volunteer hours are we talking about? And who will step up to take the Shavers' place?Stray dogs may just wander away, but the problem they represent will not. And when the bulk of the program best suited to deal with them falls on the backs of a single family, this community has clearly failed to recognize its own needs.Anyone have any creative solutions?Bark twice for yes."

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