Palo Alto council favors turning animal shelter over to Pets In Need

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto City Council voted unanimously last night (Aug. 28) to have city leaders write up a contract with the Redwood City nonprofit Pets in Need, which has been asked to operate the city’s animal shelter.

“We’re ready to go. We could start operating the shelter tomorrow,” Pets in Need Executive Director Al Mollica said.

City Manager Jim Keene will bring the contract back to council this fall so Pets in Need can take over the shelter at 3281 E. Bayshore Road in January.

The city will pay Pets in Need $650,000 per year to care for about 600 cats and dogs and 1,000 wildlife animals. The nonprofit will provide animal services to residents of Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

The city has offered to pay $3.4 million over the next three to five years to remodel and expand the shelter’s medical suite, install a portable office-classroom at the front of the site, add 16 new dog kennels, make minor improvements to the existing kennels and remove hazardous material from the medical suite area.

Of that $3.4 million, the city will pay about $1.4 million this year. Pets in Need is also asking to expand into a space next to the shelter that’s currently leased to a Honda dealership for about $100,000 per year.

Three city shelter employees, including a vet and a vet technician, have been offered jobs with Pets in Need, and Mollica said he was open to bringing in other city employees.

Keene said the city will continue to provide animal control services, such as the trucks that catch stray dogs.

A no-kill shelter

Pets in Need will offer all the same services the shelter currently does, with one difference. As a no-kill shelter, Pets in Need won’t offer pet owners the option of euthanasia.

Jeannette Washington, a city animal control officer, complained that the shelter had been “raked over the coals” by the city and pointed out that without offering low-cost euthanasia, pet owners would have to seek the service at a vet hospital, where it can cost hundreds of dollars.

The city and Pets in Need still have to work out issues around liability. Councilman Greg Scharff said he thought Pets in Need should take on the liability. “It would be pretty unusual for the city to take that liability,” Scharff said.

Saving animals facing death

Pets in Need pulls animals that are in danger of being euthanized from public shelters all over Northern California and spays or neuters, vaccinates and treats them for medical issues. Within a few weeks, the nonprofit tries to find them a permanent home.

The nonprofit’s annual budget will be $1.2 million or $1.3 million, half of which will come from the city, and the other half from the nonprofit’s fundraising.