Thursday, July 9, 2009

Animal Control Services

For the past several years, the City of Fontana has contracted with the City of San Bernardino for animal control services. Recently, due to budget constraints created by the economy, the City of Fontana was notified by the City of San Bernardino that they would no longer be able to provide those services on our behalf. The City of San Bernardino decided to end field services in Fontana as of July 1, 2009 and said they would continue to provide shelter services through the end of the calendar year.

As animal control services are one of the vital services needed by our community, Fontana elected to begin providing field services to the residents of Fontana as of July 1. We are still looking for alternatives for sheltering services in the future.

The new field program for animal control services, when fully staffed, will consist of four animal control officers, one animal control supervisor, two part-time license canvassers and one call taker. Used animal control vehicles were purchased from both the City of Corona and the City of San Bernardino. Over time, these vehicles will be supplemented with newer equipment as well.

Animal control field services will be administered by the Police Department. Funding for the new program is provided by the City’s general fund. While we believe that our historical costs will increase for these services, the current budget has been supplemented by about $350,000 from current year budgetary savings. The anticipated cost for animal control services for the City of Fontana will be about $1 million per year. Animal control services can be requested using our police dispatch number 350-7700.

Approximately 6,000 animals a year (both dogs and cats) are transported to the shelter in the City of San Bernardino. Dead animal pickup is supplemented through a contract with a company that disposes of dead animals, and also by the use of Public Works staff. For the longer term, the City of Fontana is having discussions with the City of San Bernardino, County of San Bernardino and County of Riverside to consider shelter options.

The City of Fontana is in a similar position to several other local communities. Several cities rely on contract services for sheltering animals. Discussions are under way with these communities about the possibility of creating a joint powers authority (JPA) that would allow several communities to development a partnership for animal control sheltering services. Such a partnership would likely require both an initial up-front capital investment for facilities as well as ongoing costs associated with housing animals that are picked up. Obviously, the significant numbers of animals that are generated by our community make it difficult for an existing shelter to absorb our workload.

We feel the positive side to taking over aspects of the animal control services is that, over time, the City of Fontana will be able to provide improved services within the community. Certainly, as we ramp up the program, there will be some growing pains along the way. We welcome all residents to provide the City with their comments and suggestions as we learn from and work through this new challenge. Also, please note that pet owner responsibility is critical to the success of our program and in assisting us in keeping costs down. Low cost spay and neuter programs are available that are very important to keeping the proliferation of animals to a minimum. This is very important, especially when you consider that the costs spent on animal control services take away from other programs that the community needs.

Thank you for your patience during this time of change. By all of us working together, we can continue to make this city a wonderful place to live.