Sutter group finds other animal shelters focus on adoption
Months of ongoing sticker shock were replaced by enthusiasm on Monday as Sutter Animal Services Authority's directors and staff shared ideas for construction and management of a new, dramatically upgraded animal shelter.
The meeting followed a day-long trip that the group's members — representatives from Sutter County, Yuba City and Live Oak governments — made last week to visit and analyze shelter facilities in Sacramento and Merced counties.
"The emphasis in both (shelters) was on adoptions," said County Administrator Stephanie Larsen. "We don't really want to just house animals and take care of them, we want to adopt them to good homes."
"I learned quite a bit," sad Live Oak City Council Member Diane Hodges, reflecting the tone and content of what became a detailed debriefing session.
Financial concerns still loomed large as authority members discussed and approved a $62,000 amendment to the existing, long-troubled Yuba City facility's operating budget.
Recent improvements to end the shelter's legacy of death and disease have been costly, but appear to be successful.
Larsen reported Monday that no animal deaths at the facility have been attributed to communicable disease in the past four months.
Upgraded hygiene and health protocols, infrastructure upgrades, addition of temporary buildings to better house and quarantine animals, and the implementation of a new vaccination program all went into place in late 2011 and early January following a highly critical and deeply detailed grand jury report.
Renowned shelter medicine expert Kate Hurley of U.C. Davis said that the facility and care in Sutter County rated among the worst she had seen in California.
The shelter's joint powers authority, newly formed after years of friction between city and county leaders, spent roughly $140,000 to begin making the changes last fall. An area veterinarian has since stepped forward to volunteer medical services, and a new animal rescue group has been working since last summer to help place some of the county's adoptable animals, one by one, in new homes.
All those factors have contributed, authority members have said, to a turnaround.
Meanwhile, plans for the new $5.2 million shelter still are being worked out even as the construction bidding process has begun.
Inmate labor, in-house veterinary services, and the pros and cons of caring for cats all are among issues still to be resolved.
But on Monday, authority members and staff vowed to stay focused on creating a people-and-animal-friendly facility along the lines of what they had seen last week, particularly in a new shelter in Merced.
"We're trying to bring about something closer to an urban standard now rather than just the old farmers-and-ranchers style of animal control," said County Supervisor Stan Cleveland.
"You knew you were in an adoption center instead of an animal control facility," said Authority Chairman Gary Baland, Live Oak's mayor.
Authority members discussed ways in which costs could be saved or recouped to offset construction and operating costs.
Materials varied for interior surfaces of the two shelters the group visited, and could be evaluated for durability and cost.
Suggestions also included a program that would have individual and corporate donors sponsoring animal kennels. One of the shelters they visited featured placards on each kennel advertising the donor for a cost of $150 per year.
Improved management and a well-run volunteer program will be crucial to the new shelter's success, according to board members.
"We're going to need a healthy and aggressive volunteer program to make sure the costs do not get out of hand. We saw how well that can really work," said Cleveland.
"If you don't have strong management to run it, a new shelter is not going to make a difference," Hodges said.
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at email@example.com or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.