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Proposal for Riverside County to become dog catcher in San Bernardino fails


Last updated 5/7/2019 at 4:41pm

RIVERSIDE - A proposal for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services to take over patrol and impoundment duties in San Bernardino sank without the Board of Supervisors' support on Tuesday, May 7.

The city of San Bernardino sought the one-year, $2.1 million contract with Riverside County because the municipality is struggling to fund its own animal control operations, and its city shelter is in a state of decay, according to officials.

San Bernardino has been working to climb out of bankruptcy for the last decade.

Supervisor Karen Spiegel initially backed the city's request for a contract with Animal Services, introducing the proposal on the board agenda, though in an expedited fashion, posting it Friday afternoon, instead of the customary Wednesday filing.

The Department of Animal Services already provides contract services in Colton, Fontana and Rialto, and Spiegel believed San Bernardino could be accommodated, as well.

DAS Director Allan Drusys favored the move, underscoring the department's $1.3 million budget deficit as a problem in need of a near-term solution.

"We're at a point now where we can't cut anymore,'' Drusys told the board. "The revenue from San Bernardino will help.''

But the proposal faced a wall of opposition from nonprofit rescue groups and individuals who volunteer their time in San Bernardino and the Western Riverside County Animal Shelter in Jurupa Valley.

"I don't see where you're going to add all these 9,000 animals from San Bernardino in a year,'' foster volunteer Lauren Jackson told the board. "You are going to tax the system to the max, and euthanasia numbers are going to increase. You are enabling San Bernardino by taking their money and euthanizing their pets.''

Jackson and a dozen other speakers cited figures indicating that Riverside County euthanizes more than 5,000 impounded canines and felines annually.

Drusys said many organizations demand "no-kill'' policies that are not practical. He stressed that "healthy, adoptable'' pets are generally not put down, and he said the "care capacity'' of the Jurupa Valley shelter was sufficient to take impounds from San Bernardino.

"People from San Bernardino are not going to want to go to Riverside to pick up pets,'' rescue volunteer Leslie Holzrichter said. "That's a big concern.''

A number of contract opponents said they were working with foundations and private entities to attempt to construct a private shelter in San Bernardino. However, no one could provide a potential timeline for when that might happen.

Supervisor Jeff Hewitt said the prospect of success for privatization was enough for him to vote against the proposal.

"I think they need a little more time to work through these barriers,'' he said.

Board Chairman Kevin Jeffries showed interest in the contract until Drusys confirmed that five animal control officers from San Bernardino would be added to the county payroll, at a time when targeted layoffs may be necessary to balance the budget.

"I don't want this impacting us financially,'' Jeffries said. "Hiring five employees from San Bernardino and dealing with the financial implications of that six months or a year from now -- I cannot support that.''

When he asked whether any board member desired to make a motion in favor of the contract, no one spoke, and the proposal died for lack of a motion, an extreme rarity during board meetings.


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