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Proposed initiative would reduce deaths at Animal Shelter
animal rights

Proposed initiative would reduce deaths at Animal Shelter


A proposed initiative seeks to boost the number of animals at the Napa County animal shelter that escape euthanasia from 67 percent to at least 90 percent.

Monica Stevens of Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch of St. Helena and Pam Ingalls of Wine Country Animal Lovers of Calistoga recently filed a notice of intent with the county Registrar of Voters. That allows them to gather signatures to try to qualify the measure for the Nov. 8 ballot.

“We do not believe that the community at large is aware that adoptable animals are being killed,” the notice of intent says.

Ingalls said Friday the county animal shelter is working with animal rescue groups. Ideally, the county will continue heading in the right direction and the ballot measure will not go forward, she said.

“We don’t really want to go public and make it a campaign against the county,” Ingalls said on Friday. “We want to work with the county.”

But they also say a presidential election year is best for a ballot initiative. If they skip November 2016, they would have to wait until November 2020.

“I think we’re going to get it done outside of the ballot, but we can’t risk not going forward and being prepared to go to the ballot of we have to,” Ingalls said.

County Deputy Public Works Director Liz Habkirk said the county and partner groups such as Wine Country Animal Lovers are working toward the same goal. But, she said, the prospect of having a 90-percent live release rate mandated in county code raises questions.

“Everyone wants to increase the live release rates as much as we can,” she said. “But we’re trying to balance that with other things.”

The county doesn’t want an overcrowded and disease-ridden shelter, she said. It can’t adopt out dangerous animals. The county must balance no-kill policies with the quality of life for the animals and with the resources available, Habkirk said.

If the animal shelter couldn’t achieve a mandated 90-percent rate using existing resources, the county might have to spend more money on the shelter. Space availability at the shelter is subject to ebbs and flows, Habkirk said.

“If a ballot measure comes through, we’d certainly have to look at what our capital needs would be, what our space needs would be,” she said.

Ingalls doesn’t view a mandated 90-percent live release rate as a budget-buster. Rather, she said, what’s needed is a culture shift.

“If anything, it could be cost-effective,” she said.

The proposed ballot measure says that cities with a no-kill approach see new expenses offset by a reduction in euthanasia costs, more public support and an increase in adoption fee revenues. Local nonprofits are willing to work with the county when animals face adoption challenges.

Habkirk said that the 67-percent live release rate achieved by the county has subtleties. The live release rate for dogs is 94 percent, while the release rate for cats is 57 percent.

Napa County wants to look at creative options to handle feral cats. Some cities have “barn cats” that are adopted out to farms for rodent control, she said.

The shelter under county law is to hold dogs and cats for six days while trying to find the owners. It will impound the animals for four days after successful notification. After that, it can destroy the animals.

Instead of the destruction option, the proposed initiative calls for shelter staff to do a written behavioral and medical evaluation for each animal and make the evaluation public. The shelter would notify interested nonprofit groups within 48 hours if staff identifies adoption challenges.

The shelter would provide prompt veterinary care and appropriate socialization for each animal. It would notify all animal welfare groups and nonprofits that have requested notification 48 hours in advance of killing an animal. The groups would have the option of taking custody of the animals.

Exceptions to the proposed policies are animals with rabies, a dog that after attacking a person has been determined to be dangerous and animals with irremediable physical suffering.

The California Department of Public Health has 2014 live release rate data available for the state’s 58 counties. Napa’s rate of 67 percent compares to:

— 90 percent in Sonoma and Yolo counties

— 89 percent in San Francisco County

— 72 percent in Sacramento County

— 71 percent in Contra Costa County

— 50 percent in Solano County

— 38 percent in Fresno County

The Napa County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is located at 942 Hartle Court near Imola Avenue and the Napa River. The county opened the $3.1 million, 7,500-square-foot shelter in 2002 to replace a shelter built in the 1950s that was condemned to make way for the Napa River flood control project.

Napa County’s 2015-16 budget allots $1.3 million to the shelter. Of this, about $1 million is raised through license fees, charges for services and other revenue sources.

To qualify an initiative for the November ballot, supporters must gather at least 3,900 signatures from local, registered voters. The Registrar of Voters has recommended turning in the signatures by May 10.

If the required number of signatures are valid, the Board of Supervisors will either place the initiative on the ballot or adopt it into law.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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