City Council members were undecided in a study session Tuesday as to whether to renew a contract with the city of Palo Alto's police department for animal control services. Switching to Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority would mean more animal services at less cost, though residents would pay slightly more for services and the shelter is located a few miles further away than Palo Alto's, about 8.5 miles from City Hall.
An example of SVACA's increased services is that officers would be able to respond to Mountain View 12 hours a day, Monday through Friday, compared to Palo Alto's nine hours a day. SVACA has a new facility, while Palo Alto's 1970s building needs costly upgrades, which have been put on hold since Sunnyvale canceled its contract with PAAS several years ago.
A SVACA contract would also free up a Mountain View community services officer who investigates an average of 35 animal cases a year.
Some were concerned it would take longer for SVACA to respond to calls about a stray dog or dangerous animal. Palo Alto's average response time to Mountain View is 34 minutes while SVACA's average response times to Campbell and Monte Sereno is 28 minutes. SVACA officials said the goal would be to have a truck dedicated to Mountain View for quick response times.
On average, SVACA's services will be slightly higher for residents. It would cost $42 to license an altered dog for three years, compared to $35 now charged by Palo Alto. Some services would be cheaper; SVACA would charge only $75 to spay or neuter a dog while Palo Alto charges between $100 and $215.
Mountain View police commander Max Bosel said SVACA "is not a lesser qualified provider in terms of services" when compared to Palo Alto Animal Services.
Council member Margaret Abe-Koga noted another selling point: a Mountain View city official would have a seat on SVACA's governing board at regular meetings, whereas Palo Alto, which also serve Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, only meets with partnering cities on an as-needed basis.
Council member Laura Macias appeared to be the staunchest defender of the Palo Alto animal services contract, saying that the city's analysis has not taken into enough consideration the needs of the city's pet owners who would appreciate the proximity of the Palo Alto shelter. She and other council members said they would like to discuss potential cost saving with Palo Alto before deciding to pull the city's dollars away completely — something that would have a major financial impact on Palo Alto Animal Services, Bosel said.