Despite protests, council switches animal services


A group hoping to save Palo Alto's animal shelter swayed only one member of the City Council on Tuesday 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 an joint powers authority agreement with Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority on Thomas Road in Santa Clara, with council member Laura Macias opposed. The move will save the city $40,000 a year, said police Capt. Max Bosel. The council had voted to end its contract with Palo Alto in November.

"We did take this decision seriously," said council member Ronit Bryant. "We took a lot of time visiting both Palo Alto and SVACA. We found more comprehensive services at SVACA."

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 allow a car dealership on the site. Up to 13 employees could be out of work.

The move was supposed to save the Mountain View over $150,000 a year after five years, according to a staff report for a study session on the issue last year. But city staff members weren't making that claim Tuesday.

"It turns out it's going to be pretty close to a wash," said council member Jac Siegel about 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."

Council members weighed numerous pros and cons of the two shelters. Both have had 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 PAAS, but spaying and neutering pets is cheaper on average at SVACA. And a trip to SVACA may take a few minutes longer than to PAAS, according to Google maps, but council members said they found the trip using Central Expressway to be quick and convenient.

In opposing the switch, Macias cited concerns raised by a Palo Alto group called "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. SOS members said the switch would result in more stray animals.

"The report did not study usage of the Palo Alto spay and neuter clinic by Mountain View and whether SVACA is able to provide similar service," said Mountain View resident Christina Peck.

"The whole idea of having to pay for surrendering an animal, that really is heartbreaking to me," said Mountain View resident Gloria Jackson. "I've known people who really could not take care of their animals and had to move."

Bryant noted that SVACA director Dan Soszynski promised to be flexible with those who could not afford a $150 fee to surrender their pets, which has become more common during the recession as people move away or downsize into an apartment that doesn't allow pets.

"We do our best to work with everyone," Soszynski said. "We're not going to leave an animal at risk for a surrender fee."

"It does comfort me if there is hardship they can receive some help," Bryant said.

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

"If it's not broken, don't fix it," Jackson told the council. "If you don't like the price, I suggest you negotiate with" Palo Alto.

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, who would no longer waste time "chasing strays" and holding vicious dog hearings.

But it turned out that the influence on SVACA's 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 as 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, it's an upgrade to being at Palo Alto's whim with the PAAS contract, said council member Margaret Abe-Koga.

"I'm not not completely happy with the way the weighted voting has been set up but at least we have a vote," Abe-Koga said. "With Palo Alto we didn't have much say at all, quite frankly."

Mountain View's contract with Palo Alto Alto Animal Control Services ends January 1, 2013. PAAS has not granted an early termination of the contract requested by Mountain View for July.


Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Jerks. All of the city council. Mountain View use to be such a decent town. Guess it does not matter what the people of the city want any more.

Like this comment
Posted by Yep
a resident of Castro City
on May 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm

because a vocal group was opposed to this action does not mean that "the people of the city" were. I think this was a difficult, but sound fiscal decision. The council needs a sweep out the door on many issues, but I don't think they made a necessarily bad decision on the contract.
Just one man's opinion, I'm sure others share it and others oppose it.

Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I will remember you.

Somewhere Sarah McLachlan is crying over this heartless decision by our council.

Like this comment
Posted by Mae
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 9, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Unfortunately, the ONLY thing Mountain View pays any attention to these days is Google, due to the high revenue they'll be receiving for all of Google's projects. I for one am disgusted by the favoritism and cronyism (sp) going on between the city and Google, having been a tax-paying, property-owning Mountain View citizen for 17 years. Very disappointing. Also, the number of votes for each area is WAY out of balance, in my opinion. Thank you.

Like this comment
Posted by Andrei
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 9, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Well just another reminder to completely clean house next election! From us paying more for conserving water to screwing up PA Animal shelter. These people are a bunch of idiots that shouldn't be running a toaster unsupervised let alone a city! It's time to get involved, myself included and oust these parasites that don't have a brain between them.

Like this comment
Posted by Charlene
a resident of another community
on May 11, 2012 at 8:18 am

@Andrei--I so agree,and when it comes time to re elect, these people do an "11th hour" miracle. Its like, "Oh yeah, I need to fight for my seat, better do something!" I so get what you are saying!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Annette H.
a resident of Gemello
on May 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm

While the change might be a wash for Mountain View, it's having a HUGE impact for PAAS, as the Palo Alto Council is now considering outsourcing their services. THat would leave citizens from Burlinggame (where PHS is located) to Santa Clara (where SVACA is located) without a shelter nearby. I doubt that people who need to surrender their animal can cough up the fee, plus some might not want to take the effort to drive that far. Plus the Palo Alto Spay and neuter service provided community service beyond the city border as countless rescue groups depended on that Service.
You WILL see an increase of stray, abandoned and feral cats and dogs. This is a very disappointing and HASTY decision by Mountain View's city Council.

Like this comment
Posted by Stephen Friberg
a resident of The Crossings
on May 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm

We got our dog Charlie eight years ago from the Palo Alto Animal Services, and it was a revelation in terms of how excellent an animal service could be. They were - and are - a beacon of light in this regards.

So, I'm sick at heart with the action of our city council in withdrawing our city's support for something so good.

I have read nothing that speaks of valid reasons for making the change. It seems heartless.

And it scares me that our city council - so often so excellent - would make such a cold-hearted blunder.

Like this comment
Posted by Jen
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm

The council gave the farm away with generous pensions. Now the animals will have to pay for it as well. The council is just that desperate to cut back on everything so they can continue to pay guys like Duggan.

Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 15, 2012 at 2:47 pm

horrible decision, this council will not get any more attention from me, very disappointed in this cities services all around, not just council

Like this comment
Posted by CherylP.
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm

The City Council will find out that their JOBS won't be saved! BYE BYE!

Like this comment
Posted by CherylP.
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm

The Mountain View City Council has had a long history of BAD DECISIONS! Elect people with brains and compassion, not these dimwits! I think an investigation should be launched to find out what might have "persuaded" them in their decision! Corruption in City Hall? Ya' think maybe?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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