Atascadero and Paso Robles pull out of county animal shelter project

In a pair of last-minute decisions, the city councils of Atascadero and Paso Robles voted Monday to pull out of a countywide cost-sharing agreement on a new animal shelter. Rather than participating in the countywide project, the pair of North County cities will construct an animal shelter of their own in Paso Robles, which city officials say will cut costs by about 10 percent.

Three years ago, local officials determined the existing county animal services shelter were dilapidated and a health hazard to both the animals and the people who work there. All seven cities in San Luis Obispo County then entered an agreement to build a new $14.4 million shelter near the existing facility off Highway 1 outside the city of SLO.

After conducting a cost comparison analysis, the cities of Atascadero and Paso Robles found that they would save 10 percent by building their own shelter instead of paying for their shares of the countywide project. In meetings on Tuesday, the Atascadero and Paso Robles councils voted 3-2 and 5-0 respectively in favor of pulling out of the county agreement and moving forward with their alternative.

The two North County cities envision spending between $4.5 million and $5.2 million on constructing a shelter. That facility would then be operated by Petaluma Animal Services at an annual cost of $502,000. Plans call for Paso Robles to cover about 57 percent of the costs, while Atascadero would pay about 43 percent.

In operation for about three years, Petaluma Animal Services has contracts to provide services for a handful of Sonoma County cities.

Earlier this year, the Mendocino County Executive Officer rejected a proposal by Petaluma Animal Services to run its county animal shelter because the proposal was inadequate and incomplete. For example, there was no clear approach to staffing; the proposal failed to detail cost and revenues; and fundraising would go to the nonprofit and necessarily the area where the funds were raised.

It is unclear how San Luis Obispo County and the remaining five cities will proceed with their agreement on the county’s new animal shelter. Multiple cities had asked Atascadero and Paso Robles not to opt out of the deal, and last week Arroyo Grande threatened to pull out of the agreement as well if the two North County cities were to do so. However, Monday was the final day for cities to pull out of the deal without incurring additional costs.

Despite having previously threatened to start euthanizing animals to save money, Atascadero and Paso Robles officials say their new shelter will be a no-kill facility.