By KAREN VELIE
In a plan to save money, Paso Robles and Atascadero city official are considering adopting a program where animals would be euthanized three days after being picked up by animal services.
Currently, the county provides legally mandated animal services for cities in the county. The county animal shelter currently has a 93 percent adoption rate and Woods Humane Society, a nonprofit, has a 99 percent adoption rate. Both facilities are usually at or near capacity.
Three years ago, officials determined the existing county animal services shelter was dilapidated and a health hazard to animals and the people who work there. The cities and the county then entered into an agreement to build a new animal shelter.
Several years ago, Paso Robles and Atascadero city councils looked into the cost of operating a North County animal shelter that would not only comply with state regulations but would also provide comparable shelter services. Because the cost of operating a separate animal shelter was more than the amount the cities are slated to pay the county, the North County cities elected to continue their partnerships with the county.
Now, Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin and Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley would like to take another look at low-cost options such as terminating all cats brought into the shelter after three days. State law requires animal shelters to keep healthy dogs and cats alive for three days before destroying the animals.
Currently, each city pays for its portion for shelter services. Paso Robles currently contributes approximately $265,000 a year which is slated to double to cover the cost of the county proposed animal services facility.
During a San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Martin, saying he was also speaking for Mayor O’Malley, asked the county to delay plans for the county animal shelter while their councils take another look at lower-cost options.
“Since the time the plans were first presented to our city councils, we have had the opportunity to ruminate over that a bit,” Martin said. “We feel that it is in our citizens’ best interest to take some time to do due diligence and make sure we are getting the best deal on their behalf.”
Supervisor Lynn Compton questioned Martin on how a reevaluation of the cost would be different than the evaluation the city made two years earlier unless they plan to reduce costs by euthanizing animals after 72 hours.
Martin said they plan to explore all lower-cost alternatives.
SLO County Animal Services Manager Eric Anderson said the only option for reducing shelter costs is animal termination.
Compton then asked Martin if he was being honest with the citizens of Paso Robles about the possibility of killing animals after 72 hours to save money.
“I have lived a life of being honest with my citizens,” Martin responded.
Following the discussion, the board agreed to move forward with plans for a new county animal shelter to open in the spring of 2020.
Nevertheless, both Paso Robles and Atascadero have multiple points in the process when the cities can opt out of the county plan. If the cities opt out, the cities will be liable for their portion of costs incurred in the planning and building of the county facility until that time.