Based mainly on cost concerns, a divided Board of Supervisors Tuesday formally rejected a proposal for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services to assume responsibility for impoundment and sheltering of stray or lost dogs and cats from the city of San Bernardino.
“This is not our problem,” board Chairman Kevin Jeffries said before joining Supervisors Kevin Hewitt and Chuck Washington in voting down the proposed contract. “There are compelling reasons that San Bernardino needs our help. But I come back to where I started, and that’s the legacy costs to the county. We cannot take on new employees.”
Jeffries worried about the deficit-plagued Department of Animal Services absorbing at least five animal control officers from San Bernardino, with the attendant pension and benefits obligations.
Supervisor Karen Spiegel introduced the proposed one-year, $2.1 million contract between the county and city on May 7, when the matter stalled for lack of a motion on the dais, an extreme rarity in county business.
Spiegel re-introduced the proposal on Tuesday’s policy agenda — with virtually no change from when it was first considered.
“I have yet to find a justifiable reason why we should not do this,” the supervisor said. “It’s not a big money-maker for Riverside County. We may not even break even. We’re already serving other cities in San Bernardino County.”
Animal Services Director Allan Drusys assured the board that the Western Riverside County Animal Shelter in Jurupa Valley had the capacity to take in impounds from San Bernardino, where the lone municipal animal shelter is dilapidated and may be condemned due to the city’s financial straits.
As during the May 7 meeting, the proposed contract met a wall of opposition from animal rescue volunteers who dedicate their time caring for the pets impounded at the San Bernardino facility.
“It is a run-down shelter, but why not put the money San Bernardino is offering the county into building a smaller facility in San Bernardino?” said Kathy McIntosh. “If you take in their 8,000 additional dogs a year, the county will become the highest kill (humane euthanasia) shelter.”
San Bernardino resident Frank Becerra told the board that adding 15 miles to the commute for people from San Bernardino to reach Jurupa Valley to claim, adopt or drop a pet would be “bad news for the community.”
“Those are 15 nasty miles (on congested Interstate 215),” he said. “There will be more strays on the streets of my city because people will not be inclined to drive strays to the (Jurupa Valley) shelter. You will have more dogs and cats on the streets, reproducing at a higher rate. It’ll be bad for everyone overall.”
The Department of Animal Services provides contract services in Colton, Fontana, Grand Terrace and Rialto — all in San Bernardino County, and Spiegel and Drusys argued that Riverside County could manage San Bernardino’s impounds, too.
The supervisor accused some of the contract opponents of spreading falsehoods, which prompted one speaker to respond that Spiegel had “offended everyone” daring to speak against her proposal.
Supervisor Jeff Hewitt echoed Jeffries’ and Washington’s sentiments, saying he worried about expanding the payroll of an agency battling a $1.3 million deficit in the current fiscal year.
“The problem with government is, when you take on new employees, it’s hard to get rid of them,” he said, challenging Drusys’ contention that they would only be temporary.
Supervisor Manuel Perez sided with Spiegel, but did not comment on the proposal.
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