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Cities stay in animal shelter kennels

Cities stay in animal shelter kennels

While cities continue to struggle to find an answer to their stray dog problems, there is no question about where the dogs will go once they are caught. But the answer does change depending on your address.

Since the first of the year, Exeter and Farmersville have been housing their stray and feral dogs in Tulare. The average resident wouldn’t have noticed much of a difference. Both cities retained their animal control officers who will continue to pick up stray, injured or dead animals within the city limits. Dog licensing rates approved by both cities earlier this year will not change under the agreement as Exeter and Farmersville will retain the duties of and the revenues collected for dog licensing.

The only difference will be the free and low-cost vaccination clinics will now be held in Tulare and not in Visalia or in town. Once Tulare is operational, vaccination clinics will be held at Pet Sense, located in the Tulare Outlet every Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. by V.I.P. Pet Care Services.

Last fall the two cities opted not to renew their kenneling contracts with the Valley Oak SPCA (VOSPCA) after their annual contracts would have nearly doubled in price. The increase was due to $7.5 million animal shelter being proposed by the City of Visalia and the VOSPCA. Under Visalia’s proposal, Exeter would have paid $21,500 for 20 years at 6% interest to cover the city’s share of constructing the facility. That would have been in addition to the $36,000 Exeter was already paying VOSPCA for kenneling services per year.

According to the Valley Oak SPCA, the City of Exeter kennels about 510 dogs and cats per year at their animal shelter, with kenneling costing an average of $70 per animal. If the Exeter City Council were to accept Visalia’s proposal, the cost per animal would increase to $112, a 60% increase.

“We were not dissatisfied with the service but faced a significant increase in cost if we remained with Visalia,” Groom said. “The proposal was pretty close to being double what we were paying. It was strictly a financial matter for us.”

Farmersville would have paid $22,000 for 20 years at 6% interest to cover the its share of facility’s construction costs. That would have been in addition to the $33,000 Farmersville was already paying VOSPCA for kenneling services. According to the Valley Oak SPCA, the City of Farmersville kennels about 530 dogs and cats per year at their animal shelter, with kenneling costing an average of $62 per animal. If the Farmersville City Council were to accept the proposal, the cost per animal would increase to $103 per animal, a 66% increase.

Under the contract with Tulare, both Exeter and Farmersville will pay $41,560 per year for kenneling services to be paid in quarterly installments of $10,390. In all, Exeter and Farmersville will save at least $34,000 before the initial contracts with Tulare expire on June 30, 2014.

Exeter City Manager Randy Groom said it only takes Exeter’s animal control officer an additional five minutes to reach the Tulare facility on the southern edge of downtown than it did to arrive at the VOSPCA shelter on the Highway 99 frontage road just north of Caldwell.

Farmersville Police Chief Mario Krstic agreed, adding that the annual savings made the decision an easy one during tough economic times.

“We have been very pleased with the service we get and feel it is a good value for the cost,” said Krstic, who is also Farmersville’s interim City Manager.

Faced with similar cost increases, the City of Tulare decided to run its own facility. Russell Laswell, spokesperson for the City of Tulare’s kenneling services, said the City retrofitted a downtown warehouse built in 2008 into an animal shelter. The 5,000 square foot facility can house 80 dog kennels and 36 cat kennels. Tulare, like nearly every other City in Tulare County, used to pick up stray animals and take them to the Valley Oak SPCA shelter near the Visalia Airport.

Without the demand or means for a larger facility, the City of Visalia and VOSPCA have downsized plans for a new animal shelter. Visalia’s Animal Control Liaison Mario Cifuentes said the City of Visalia has approved a facility up to $6.6 million but are anticipating to spend about $5 million on the facility.

“Our plans are right in the middle and even toward the lower end of facilities and recommendations by the American Veterinary Medical Association,” Cifuentes said.

Visalia ran its own animal shelter until 1993 when it began contracting with VOSPCA. VOSPCA built its shelter at 29016 Highway 99 in 1968. The building can house up to 115 dogs and 200 cats. As of Jan. 1, 2013, Cifuentes said Visalia has taken back its dog licensing from VOSPCA so both entities can play to their strengths. Visalia currently contracts for kenneling services only with the VOSPCA for about $600,000 per year.

“They do an excellent job of caring for the animals but enforcement goes against every part of their being,” he said. “Animal control enforcement is really something Cities should be doing.”

Dinuba was the only city besides Visalia that renewed its kenneling contract with VOSPCA and agreed to pay a share of the new facility. Cifuentes said Dinuba also contracts for dog licensing with VOSPCA. Cifuentes said he anticipates construction on the new facility will be complete next summer. For more information on the VOSPCA animal shelter project, call the City of Visalia at 559-713-4686.

The only other City-run animal shelter in Tulare County is in Lindsay but it is run by the City of Porterville. Lindsay began leasing its former animal shelter located at 23611 Road 196 on Highway 65 in Lindsay to the City of Porterville in 2009.

Porterville currently provides kenneling for the cities of Lindsay and Woodlake. Woodlake pays $40 per animal for kenneling or $8 for disposing of a dead animal. Lindsay pays $30 for a stray animal or $6 to dispose of a dead animal.

Former City Administrator Bill Lewis estimated Woodlake only spends between $5,000 and $9,000 annually on kenneling services with the City of Porterville. Lindsay Police Lt. Chris Hughes said the City of Lindsay only spends about $4,000 per year on kenneling services.

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