Quirks of the County Blog

Friday, Nov 30 2012 10:30 PM

New catfight embroils city and county over pet neutering

BY LOIS HENRY Californian columnist lhenry@bakersfield.com

A tenuous alliance between the city and county over animal control has been badly shaken by the sudden appearance on the Board of Supervisors' Tuesday agenda of a request to approve a pricey new contract for spay/neuter services.

The proposal asks Supervisors to approve a contract with AngelDogs Foundation to spend $898,250 through June 30, 2014 on spay/neuter services for shelter animals being adopted out.

But the city had heard nothing of this nearly $900,000 contract in recent meetings with the county, though the contract was signed by AngelDogs and county representatives who attend those meetings in October.

In an effort to foster cooperation between the city and county on animal control issues. a group called the Metropolitan Bakersfield Animal Control Committee was established. Its specific assignment was to come up with a process for the city to have more say in shelter operations and create a mutually agreeable cost sharing plan.

Reaction from the city to this contract request was fast and furious.

"If the county approves the contract they will do so at their own risk and cost," Councilman Ken Weir said in an email. "This action, along with a series of other actions, jeopardizes any eventual agreement between the city and county."

Assistant City Manager Steve Teglia, who attends committee sessions and meets separately with county staffers on a weekly basis to sort out animal control costs, said he also hadn't heard about the contract prior to seeing it pop up on the supervisors' agenda.

"The City has not had any involvement in the development of this agreement, nor were we consulted in any fashion," he said.

That was a mistake, said new Animal Control Director Jen Woodard.

The contract had been in the works before she took over in early October.

"But it was my responsibility to give the city a heads up," she said. "It did come as a surprise for them and that was not my intention."

She explained that while the contract contains a big number, some of that is retroactive for work AngelDogs has already performed. And it's simply a commitment to spend up to that amount -- if needed.

"If we can find cheaper alternatives or additional services, we can still do that," she said. AngelDogs is charging the county on a per animal basis not a flat fee.

The foundation comes to the shelter once a week at a cost of about $5,000 for each visit, Woodard said.

The county wants to increase the frequency to twice a week.

"So we just extrapolated the current charges out," Woodard said for how the county arrived at nearly $900,000 to cover 20 months.

AngelDogs' prices for shelter alterations are $45 per cat and $110 per dog, regardless of weight or gender. (AngelDogs charges the public a different rate.)

Aside from the lack of communication with the city, there were also concerns that the county did not attempt to work out a deal with Critters Without Litters, Bakersfield's low-cost spay/neuter clinic.

Most of Critters rates are lower ($65 to $80 per dog and $40 to $50 per cat) and the clinic needs a steady flow of animals to be sustainable.

Woodard said there could be a way to include Critters but she worried about tying up the clinic's time with shelter animals, which would preclude its use by the general public.

Besides, she said, the shelter doesn't have a vehicle that could transport 50 animals at a time to Critters.

Councilman Wier, along with Councilman David Couch and Supervisors Mike Maggard and Zack Scrivner sit on the joint committee, which is chaired by Deputy District Attorney Mike Yraceburn.

Maggard did not return phone calls.

Rancor between the city and county over animal shelter costs and operations had grown so virulent the entities were on the verge of severing ties completely.

The committee was created in mid-August to find a way to end the conflict and come up with a long-term agreement by the end of June 2013.

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