Pets in peril?: Shared animal services face the chopping block
BY Diego Abeloos
Los Altos Town Crier
April 25, 2012
Read original article at www.losaltosonline.com
When a pet hits hard times in Los Altos, officers from the Animal Services Center in Palo Alto serve as a safety net. They respond to animal calls, operate a spay and neuter clinic and put up orphaned pooches for adoption. But the Palo Alto City Council faces a tough budget call – after Mountain View gave one year’s notice in November that it will leave the jointly funded center, only Los Altos and Los Altos Hills remain to help foot the $1.8 million annual bill.
To save money, Palo Alto officials are considering closing the shelter and outsourcing its work elsewhere on the Peninsula. According to Los Altos Police Chief Tuck Younis, Los Altos would need to contract with another facility if the center, located at 3281 E. Bayshore Road in Palo Alto, closes due to a budget shortfall.
Mountain View City Council members cited Palo Alto’s aging facility, among other considerations, when they voted to switch to Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA) beginning in November. The city contributed approximately $450,000 annually to Palo Alto Animal Services, which has served Los Altos and Los Altos Hills for 19 years.
According to Palo Alto Superintendent of Animal Services Sandi Stadler, Palo Alto faces a considerable increase to its current $700,000 annual payment to the center once Mountain View withdraws.
Younis, who noted that Los Altos pays an annual fee of $180,000 to the center, said Los Altos’ staff have explored available outside agencies should Palo Alto’s center close, including SVACA, located in Santa Clara.
“In the worst-case scenario, we have options,” Younis said.
He added that the cost of outsourcing services to SVACA is comparable to that of continuing with Palo Alto Animal Services but noted he’s pleased with the center’s work.
“The bottom line is that the service that is provided to our community is a good service and that it’s convenient for our residents,” he said.
Los Altos Hills pays approximately $59,000 annually to the center, according to Stadler. Los Altos Hills City Manager Carl Cahill said it’s too early to speculate on the center’s future. He said Palo Alto, like Mountain View, must provide one year’s notice before it closes the center.
It’s more than money
Stadler said many Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents have strong ties to the center and appreciate that it’s relatively near the communities.
“We get calls almost daily from people actually making sure what they’re hearing is correct,” she said. “Is this truly a possibility that the shelter may close or that the city (of Palo Alto) may outsource to another agency? When they find out that it is a possible option, they’re quite concerned.”
Younis agreed with Stadler and said he’s confident Palo Alto officials will consider the center’s history with local residents when determining its fate.
“It’s a very passionate issue anytime you’re dealing with people’s pets,” he said. “There are going to be strong feelings about it.”
Stadler added that Palo Alto officials are reviewing alternatives to closure such as potential partnerships, added services and relocating the center to another facility in Palo Alto.
“It can be unfortunate, but it can also be an opportunity,” she said. “The (Palo Alto) city council is being very brave at looking at all of the options. Let’s look at everything … the ideas that are being talked about now are creative.”
Stadler, meanwhile, said Palo Alto should have a clearer budget picture once Mountain View terminates its contract.
“We’re in the question-asking phase,” she said. “It’s very scary for the staff. It’s just the unknown. We don’t know where we’re going to be a year from now or two years from now.”