Shelter set to close extra day a week

Staff and volunteers at the San Martin Animal Shelter are crying
foul over the county’s decision to close the shelter an extra day a
week beginning Sept. 1.
San Jose – Staff and volunteers at the San Martin Animal Shelter are crying foul over the county’s decision to close the shelter an extra day a week beginning Sept. 1.

“I don’t understand the reasons for it,” said Nicole Leaños, vice president of Friends of the San Martin Animal Shelter, or FOSMAS. “The ones I’ve heard don’t have any weight. They don’t make any sense.”

Santa Clara County Agriculture Commissioner Greg Van Wassenhove, who recommended the cuts to the board of supervisors, said they’re necessary to balance his department’s budget. He was able to save $90,000 for the next fiscal year by slashing 1.5 vacant positions at the shelter.

Leaños said the shelter was already operating without those staffers, and getting along fine, but Van Wassenhove said those vacancies and other staff shortages were being covered with contract employees and overtime that will not be available July 1, when the next fiscal year begins. He said he believes the shelter’s extensive network of volunteers and foster homes will help cover the cuts.

“They’re very committed and dedicated to animal issues,” Van Wassenhove said of FOSMAS. “They’ve done an amazing job utilizing resources outside the shelter to rescue and adopt animals and I think they can continue to do that.”

Beginning Sept. 1, the shelter will only be open to the public for four hours each day Tuesday through Saturday. After three months, the county supervisors will review the new schedule to see if it’s leading to more euthanizations.

Shelter staffers say they already know how it will work. Phillip Jewitt, who runs the shelter and is head of FOSMAS, said closing the shelter another day at the end of the busiest time of year will cause a loss of revenue and lead to more euthanizations because fewer animals will be adopted. It costs about $120 to adopt a cat or dog at the shelter.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Jewitt said. “I told the supervisors they are tying our hands behind our back. Summertime is when we adopt the majority of our animals. They’re asking us to make the same revenue, but do it in less time.”

Van Wassenhove said that after the public gets used to the new hours, the shelter will operate smoothly. He’s begun meeting with shelter staff to devise strategies to ensure that animals are taken in, cared for and adopted.

“We’ll be able to mitigate the impact on the community by doing things differently and more efficiently,” he said. “I will continue to work with the friends group to minimize the impacts on the shelter.”

To learn more about the shelter, or to donate to FOSMAS, visit its Web site at www.fosmas.org.

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