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 .