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By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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San Ramon Needs Our Own Animal Control

Uploaded: Apr 19, 2010
Last fiscal year (2009/2010) the City of San Ramon spent $311,500 on animal control. All of that money went to the Contra Costa County Animal Services Department (ASD) in Martinez. Not much came back in services to San Ramon, so ASD got a good deal.

This FY (2010/2011), the budget for ASD is $335,464.56. That seems like a lot of money to send to Martinez every year, when not many animals from here go there. In fact, more cats are probably dropped off at the East County Animal Services (ECAS) in Dublin every year than brought to Martinez. It's a lot easier to drive 5 miles to Dublin than 25 to Martinez.

I've been asking to move Animal Control closer to home for the last 10 years. The City did some research on using the ECAS, but because it is in a different county, the Animal Control laws and fees are different. I found out about this by accident a few years after I made the request when I was at a Chamber of Commerce lunch with the Lieutenant who did the study and he mentioned it. Nobody from the city ever got back to me with any information about anything I have ever asked for at a Council meeting.

I asked about starting our own Animal Control again at Council meetings in 2008 and 2009. I asked to meet with Police Chief Scott Holder to discuss this. He talked to me for about 5 minutes before a Council meeting to explain that it would cost too much. That was the "meeting" I got.

A few weeks ago I sent an email to Chief Holder with copies to City Manager Herb Moniz and Mayor H. Abram Wilson, asking for a formal meeting and a copy of the contract the City has with ASD. Chief Holder emailed me the following reply.

Roz,

I forwarded your request to Animal Services last week. Today I heard from Deputy Director Dan Barrett. Animal Services Director Glenn Howell will be contacting you regarding the specific questions you would like to have answered. The services provided by the County are far more than shelter and Mr. Howell is the best contact to directly answer those questions.

Take care,

Scott Holder

Mr. Howell never got back to me; so I filled out a request for the City's contract with ASD at the City Clerk's Office. A copy of the City-County Animal Services Agreement was dropped off at my house. The agreement is a two page letter from 2006 that says ASD will enforce the City's Animal Control Ordinance. San Ramon's Animal Control Ordinance is basically a copy of the Contra Costa County Animal Control Ordinance, which designates our Director of Animal Control as the one in Martinez. This Ordinance was written in 1992.

In 2006 ASD charged $3.61 "for each person residing within the city limits." That amount has increased to $5.31 per capita in 2010/2011. It is billed in four installments -- August, October, January, and April. Since the cost goes up each year and our population is increasing, the amount billed goes up each year. It was $184,207.47 for FY 2006/2007. The FY 2010/2011 "will be $335,464.56," according to the renewal letter from ASD.

In our informal meeting Chief Holder said Animal Control was costing Antioch almost $1M, so I looked at their budget. Antioch has a population of 100,200. If they were paying ASD $5.31 per person, that would be $532,000 a year. Antioch has its own animal shelter with 9.7 Full Time Equivalent employees. Their 2009/2010 proposed budget for Animal Control was $862K. Of this, $575.5K was estimated from the Antioch General Fund, and $286K from Current Service Charges (licensing and adoption fees that go to ASD for San Ramon). So the actual cost to Antioch for last year was about $50K more than they would have paid Martinez for their Animal Control.

I realized that Chief Holder just doesn't want to add another responsibility to his list, so I thought maybe Animal Control could be contracted out. Since the City is willing to pay ASD $335.5K maybe that money could be spent locally for an animal boarding, vet or animal rescue or combination of these taking over managing the shelter.

When I lived in Culver City 20 years ago, they contracted with SPCA-LA for shelter services, and hired one Animal Control Officer in their Police Dept. Culver City is about half the size of San Ramon, so we might need two Animal Control Officers, and if we went in on this with Danville, they could contribute a share of the costs. Animal Control Officers are paid about half of what a Police Officer makes, so the cost would not add up to the $335K we are being billed now, and some of that money could go to a private business or non-profit for shelter service.

Antioch is now looking into contracting operation of its shelter by a non-profit, which is what I recommended to the San Ramon City Council at their April 13 meeting. If you watch the video of my request (I come on about 35-40 minutes into the meeting), you will see that no matter how much I pleaded there was no response from the Mayor to put this on a Policy Committee agenda. A letter from a woman at the March 9 meeting complaining about a barking dog was at least put onto the Policy Committee agenda for March. I planned to attend that meeting, but it was canceled.

If the City's Animal Control Ordinance is changed to deal more strictly with barking dogs, then the whole Ordinance should be changed and the job of Director of Animal Control should be taken over by the City. If that were done, the City could contract its Animal Control services to a private company, the Police Department, or a non-profit or any combination of these under the direction of the City's Director of Animal Control. This could be handled by an Administrative Officer in the Police Dept. with 10% of that Officer's time.

The City is in the process of purchasing the building at 2401 Crow Canyon Road as a temporary Police Station. This building is 62,000 sq. ft. The Police need only about half of that. The city plans to spend almost $2M in renovating this building to make it suitable for the SRPD, so the money is allocated to spend on this building. It would not take much more or any more of the already allocated money to remodel a section of this building for use as an Animal Shelter.

Even if this building is not used as a shelter, another building or existing boarding facility or vet hospital could be contracted for use as an Animal Shelter by the city. This is good for business, good fiscal policy, and good for San Ramon residents.

The Contra Costa County ASD Shelter is open only on Saturdays on the weekends, which makes it difficult for residents of San Ramon who work during the week to get there. Your pet could be euthanized because you couldn't make it there in time.

San Ramon needs our own Animal Control. If you have pets or care about animals, I hope you will get involved in putting pressure on the City Council to change the Ordinance so we can at least have control over whichever form of Animal Control we use.

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