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Report: More Animals May Die With Budget Cuts

Under certain scenarios, more animals will be euthanized due to increased costs of life-saving procedures.

The case against keeping open has been laid out in a report by the City Manager’s office sent to the Policy and Services Committee.

The crux of the problem, according to the report, is that Mountain View decided to stop using the facility, resulting in what will be a loss of $470,000 in revenue, thereby driving Animal Services into the red.

Instead, Mountain View will contract with the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA), which also works with the cities of Santa Clara, Monte Sereno and Campbell.

The report suggests that the City follow Mountain View’s lead and join an outside agency such as SVACA, which spent $6 million to buy and build out a 17,000 square foot building for animal care in Santa Clara. Palo Alto’s shelter is 5,400 square feet.

Save our Shelter, a local citizen’s group fighting to save Palo Alto Animal Services, was quick to come out against the report, saying it failed to explore ways to keep the shelter open.

“We wholeheartedly oppose the wholesale outsourcing of animal services to competing animal shelters,” said Save our Shelter Spokesman Luke Stangel in a statement Friday. “Palo Alto Animal Services is the only public animal shelter between San Mateo and Santa Clara. If it were to disappear, we believe Palo Alto would see many more strays on its streets, more lost pets that never come home, and more unwanted cats and dogs, due to the loss of the low-cost spay and neuter clinic.”

The City of Mountain View said that by switching over to SVACA, they’ll save money, and have access to what they deem to be higher quality, more up to date facilities.

Palo Alto Animal Services was built in 1972 and, like so much of Palo Alto’s infrastructure, needs improvement, according to the report.

The City was considering building a new facility on the site of the old Los Altos Treatment Plant at a cost of about $7 million, but decided instead to do a bare-minimum upgrade at the existing site, replacing the roof, upgrading the HVAC system, replacing windows and doors, and adding a security system. Total cost: $1,000,000.

Animal Services staff say that to build an up-to-date facility in Palo Alto, they would need 6,750 square feet of office, clinic and shelter space, at a cost of about $200-300 per square foot, or $3.3-3.7 million, according to the report.

If the City decided against outsourcing the entire operation, Keene laid out four alternatives for keeping Animal Services intact, but at a greatly reduced capacity.

One option presented by City Manager James Keene would be to reduce management oversight and level of field services at the shelter, netting a savings of $270,826 per year for the city. Under this scenario, one animal services supervisor, one animal control officer, and a part-time volunteer coordinator would be eliminated. This would be a major reduction in service, resulting in no backup officers left to help cover in case of simultaneous calls for service or to cover sick and vacation leave. It would also mean drawing from other emergency service personnel to provide field safety backup.

“Emergency field services must be performed 365 days/year, 24 hours/day; with a smaller staff pool to share the burden, the propensity of staff burnout and risk of injury would increase,” according to the report.

This option was not popular with Save our Shelter, either.

“These employees are the backbone of the department, and its face to the public,” said Stangel. “Animal Control Officers are vital to public safety, public awareness and education.”

A second option presented by Keene would build off the first option by cutting a second animal control officer as well as a animal services specialist, and would combine a number of roles into a new “hybrid” position called Animal Control Specialist. This option would save $366,063 per year, according to the report.

Option three calls for eliminating services down to the legally required minimum levels. This would means laying off one full-time supervisor, one full time veterinarian, one full-time veterinary technician, a part-time animal control officer, and a part-time volunteer coordinator, then adding a contract veterinarian. This option would also eliminate general costs related to the spay/neuter clinic. Total savings under this option would amount to $194,034 per year.

“In this scenario the mandated and essential services are kept intact,” according to the report. “Response times will remain at an acceptable level and the field services, license services, rabies quarantines, lost and found, adoption and emergency care will be maintained.”

In the final option, the Spay & Neuter clinic would be eliminated entirely and outsourced, but the vaccination program would remain. Emergency veterinary care would then be outsourced to various local veterinary hospitals. This option would end up costing the city $17,583, and would also drive up the cost of life-saving emergency care for animals, effectively meaning that more animals will be put to death.

“If these procedures were to be contracted out to regular veterinary practices the costs associated with these services may make them unobtainable and the animal would be euthanized,” according to the report.

The Policy and Services Committee meets Tuesday night at 6 p.m. in the .

Alice Smith May 07, 2012 at 09:07 PM
On Saturday, Momma Mallard and her 5 ducklings were waddling down Los Palos, onto Arastradero Road. With my hazard lights on, I followed them. Called 211: Arastradero is not Make Way for Ducklings. In the bicycle path on WAs told by Santa Clara County services that it was too far to come- call PA Animal Services. An electric wheelchair came barreling down Aras..Road and scared the babies who jumped into the storm drain. The wheelchair didn't stop; the Momma went ballistic. Flew to the nearby roof, on the road, on the grass, squawking like mad. Within 10 minutes (or less) the Animal Rescue Van appeared. Deftly, the Animal Rescuer retrieved the 5 babies using a long handled net and put them into a carrying case. He then tried for Momma too, but eventually had to give that up. He took the babies to the animal shelter at Cubberley, and when they are old enough, they will be released into the marshlands at the bay. Momma is possibly the same Mallard which has been in my backyard for 3 months, off and on with her mate, and who yesterday afternoon, was back there again. The babies are saved, the city reacted in a timely and appropriate manner. Outsourcing this valuable service is not the answer.
Scottie Zimmerman May 07, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Thank you, Alice, for another terrific example of how important the Animal Control Officers from Palo Alto Animal Services are. They love their job, and they do it brilliantly. Meanwhile, I want to point out an ERROR at the end of the Patch story. The Policy & Services Committee meets THURSDAY (not Tuesday), May 10, at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Palo Alto's City Hall (250 Hamilton Ave). A discussion of the issues around preserving or closing PAAS is the ONLY item on the agenda. All who value the Palo Alto shelter are urged to attend the meeting. Learn what's happening, speak your opinion, join the Save Our Shelter group.
Scottie Zimmerman May 07, 2012 at 11:31 PM
OK, I see I oversimplified. The Policy & Services Committee does meet on Tuesday, in the CCR, a smaller room than the Council Chambers. PAAS is not on the agenda for the Tuesday meeting. THURSDAY is the one that really matters.
Zoey May 08, 2012 at 05:43 AM
I too, thank you for you story, Alice. I have found all at this shelter to be kind, compassionate, and helpful. I will be attending this meeting, and I do hope animal lovers all over Palo Alto, will try to attend.
barking mad May 08, 2012 at 10:19 PM
why does it seem that the city manager is incapable of thinking outside the box...has he explored a public/private partnership of some sort? i'm sure there are other options out there that won't cost employees their jobs OR cut services. a little creativity goes a long way... furthermore, i have heard that it is estimated that only 5% of palo alto dogs are licensed. bringing that number up to even a paltry 50% should bring in revenues of 250,000.00 or more. raise the price on spay/neuters by $20.00 each and that nets nearly another 100,000.00. i'm already up to $350,000.00 without taxing my mind...
sister madly May 08, 2012 at 10:22 PM
lovely story...except animal control should not have carted the duckings off to the animal shelter. they should have been left for momma duck to collect and allowed to continue as their little duck family. sadly, humans often intervene too much. (unless, of course, momma duck didn't collect them)

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