Animal Services Lacking in Gilroy

Terri, left, Candice, right, and Nicholas DeVincenzi look for a

Efforts to partner with Morgan Hill fizzle; Officials say ‘it’s
a matter of priorities’
Gilroy – Some say it’s a rooster. Others say it’s a chicken. One woman swears she saw it leading a parade of baby chicks.

Whatever it is, the bird is wounded, possibly suffering from a broken leg, the victim of an owner who abandoned it some months ago on the grounds of the Twin Oak Town Homes on Kern Avenue, and a city budget that’s so tight there’s no room for the care and feeding of sick fowl.

It’s probably an understatement to say that animal control services in Gilroy are lacking. Ever since Santa Clara County stopped offering the services in Gilroy more than a decade ago, the city has made do with an animal shelter that consists of a six-dog kennel at the police department.

That facility is inadequate for a growing rural community with a large and diverse animal population. There are virtually no services for any animals other than canines. Efforts to craft partnerships with the city of Morgan Hill have never progressed and are now dead. There are no changes on the horizon.

“It’s a matter of priorities,” Gilroy City Administrator Jay Baksa said. “Do you put enormous time and resources into animal control or do you spend it on other priorities within the police department?”

The community service officers who handle Gilroy’s stray and abandoned dogs are busy. So far this year, the city has impounded 339 canines. They keep the dogs for five days. If no owner comes forward, the dogs are shipped to the South County Animal Shelter in San Martin. This year, 193 dogs have been reunited with their families; 146 have been sent to the shelter, at a cost of more than $14,000 to the city.

Gilroy residents can not take stray dogs, cats or other creatures to the San Martin shelter. If you live in Gilroy and want to get rid of an animal, your only option is to haul it the Humane Society Silicon Valley in Santa Clara. But while Gilroyans might have the longest trip to that shelter, they’re not the only ones with a problem local government has not been able to solve.

“Every city in the county has been battling with this issue,” Baksa said. “Every city has to come up with its unique plan and then within that plan it’s a matter of priorities.”

Last year, Morgan Hill residents told their local police department that animal control was one of their top priorities, along with traffic and a more visible police presence. But city leaders say there’s only so much they’re willing to invest in animal services.

“It’s not a huge problem,” Morgan Hill Police Chief Bruce Cumming said. “I would say it’s an annoying and continuous problem, but there are worse things than a dog that won’t stop barking.”

Cumming, though, has increased staff and, a month ago, Cumming changed department policy to allow officers to collect strays from residents.

“I struggled with that because we do have to pay to take them to the shelter and ultimately, it’s expensive,” Cumming said of the $100-per-dog fee, “but it was not an appropriate response for us to not help people.”

Leaders in both cities say they would like to develop a partnership that would ease pressures on their individual budgets and lessen their reliance on the perpetually overcrowded county shelter.

“Keeping a kennel for every city in the county doesn’t make sense in this financial world,” Baksa said. “If there was an interest in consolidating or coordinating we’d be willing to sit down and talk about it, but it hasn’t come up in conversation recently.”

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