Mountain view officially switches animal services

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By Daniel DeBolt
Mountain View Voice
May 9, 2012
Read original article at paloaltoonline.com

A group hoping to save Palo Alto’s animal shelter swayed only one member of the Mountain View City Council Tuesday, May 8, in an effort to keep Mountain View from switching to a Santa Clara-based animal services provider.

The council voted 6-1 to enter into a joint powers board agreement with Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA) on Thomas Road in Santa Clara, with Council member Laura Macias opposed. The move will save the city $40,000 a year, police Capt. Max Bosel said.

Macias cited concerns raised by the Palo Alto group “Save Our Shelter” over a $150 fee for surrendering animals at SVACA (Palo Alto takes them for free) and concerns over the limited availability of spaying and neutering services at the SVACA shelter, though the service is offered there at a lower average cost.

“The surrender fee and spay and neuter availability are coming up as pretty serious issues,” Macias said. “If you don’t have $150 you aren’t going to bring your pet in. People are going though really trying times in their lives and that’s not when they have $150 around.”

The move means Palo Alto will lose $450,000 a year to run its shelter on Bayshore Road, spurring Palo Alto to examine outsourcing animal services and possibly building an auto dealership on the site. Up to 13 employees could be out of work.

The move was supposed to save Mountain View more than $150,000 a year after five years, according to a staff report. But city staff members weren’t making that claim Tuesday.

“It turns out its going to be pretty close to (a) wash,” said council member Jac Siegel about the city saving money with SVACA.

Siegel called it a “tough decision.”

“I found the most caring people at both facilities I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.

Council members cited having an influence over how SVACA is run as a major selling point, along with fewer animal control duties put upon local police and the city attorney’s office, which would no longer waste time “chasing strays” and holding vicious dog hearings.

But it turned out the influence in SVACA joint powers board may be less than hoped. As a member of the multi-city board, Mountain View has only two votes, while Santa Clara has five, Campbell has two and Monte Sereno has one vote. Bosel said there was “spirited discussion” about having a number of votes more proportionate to the population of the cities on the board, but no luck. Nevertheless, its an upgrade to being completely at Palo Alto’s whim with the PAAS contract, Council member Margaret Abe-Koga said.

Council members weighed numerous pros and cons of the two shelters and found similar euthanasia rates over recent years. Members praised Santa Clara’s relatively new facilities, while Palo Alto’s is in need of a rebuild. Fees are higher at SVACA for adopting a dog, for example, which costs $150 at SVACA versus $100 at the Palo Alto shelter. And a trip to SVACA may take a few minutes longer than to Palo Alto, according to Google maps.

To keep Mountain View, city staff members reported in November that Palo Alto Animal Services (PAAS) offered to extend its shelter hours from 30 to 43 hours a week, 7.5 hours more than SVACA’s posted shelter hours. Recently proposed budget cuts to PAAS could also save Mountain View an untold amount. PAAS also offered to waive any costs for renovating its aging shelter facility, Mountain View’s share of which was an estimated $2 million.

Mountain View’s contract with PAAS ends Jan. 1, 2013. PAAS has not granted an early termination of the contract requested by Mountain View for July.