Why San Martin Shelter doesn’t accept pets from city residents

City councilman Bob Dillon of Gilroy here. I have a good column
question, I think. Why doesn’t the San Martin Animal Shelter accept
abandoned animals from Gilroy?
Q. City councilman Bob Dillon of Gilroy here. I have a good column question, I think. Why doesn’t the San Martin Animal Shelter accept abandoned animals from Gilroy? This has been an ongoing problem for decades. Editor’s Mark Derry’s column next to yours in a recent print edition notes that yet again four abandoned puppies have been found in our area. It’s ridiculous for Gilroyans to have to travel to San Jose to surrender their animals or turn in abandoned ones. We are, after all, located in Santa Clara County and this is a county service.

A. This is a great question that brings up an important distinction between county services and city services. The short answer is that the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill do not contract with the County of Santa Clara to provide regular animal services to city residents – in part because the San Martin Animal Shelter is over capacity just serving its 90,000-plus unincorporated county residents.

The good news is that Santa Clara County is currently in the process of planning a new Animal Shelter which the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill could have the option of partnering in, so that Gilroy and Morgan Hill residents would be able to surrender abandoned animals in San Martin and not have to drive to San Jose.

Notwithstanding budget and Shelter space limitations, the county would welcome the opportunity to engage in discussions with representatives from Gilroy and Morgan Hill to explore animal care and sheltering options and concepts that may improve services now and in the future.

The County of Santa Clara’s responsibility is to provide animal control and shelter services for the residents of unincorporated Santa Clara County. Unfortunately, the county shelter is not adequate even for its own jurisdictional needs and has limited capacity for its service area. The county and the cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy have agreements with the county shelter to accept animals from the cities’ animal control division when space is available.

In turn, the cities reimburse the county $110 for each transferred animal. It is important to note that these animals are transferred from the cities’ animal control divisions and are not directly accepted from the public.

At certain times of the year, the shelter is at capacity and cannot accept animals from the cities. In these instances, Gilroy uses a similar animal sheltering arrangement with the City of San Jose and the City of Hollister to provide shelter services for its animals.

True, residents of Gilroy are also residents of Santa Clara County. However, residential services such as police protection, road repairs, and waste disposal are provided to residents by either the city in which they live, or by the county if they live outside city limits (unincorporated). There are some services that are paid for and used by both city residents and unincorporated county residents, regardless of address i.e. district attorney, public guardian, public health, legal records, and mental health services.

It is true that several decades ago, Santa Clara County was able to provide free shelter services to city residents without being reimbursed by the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Budget cuts and overcrowding at the shelter have made the free arrangement impossible since the early 1990s.

The San Martin Animal Shelter was built in the 1970s and the size and available facilities are now inadequate. It cannot be expanded at its current location because it is located in the flight path of the South County Airport. The shelter typically operates at maximum animal capacity with excess animals placed in foster care or with rescue organizations.

For example, the shelter has a maximum capacity for holding 85 cats, but during peak season, there are often 200 cats brought in which must be cared for in foster homes. Sadly, the number of animals abandoned, stray, or relinquished by their owners has steadily increased in recent years.

Plans for building a new San Martin Animal Shelter have been in the works for some time but just recently, significant progress has been made. At the Aug. 18 meeting of the county’s Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee (aka HLUET, which I chair), we approved the formation of a 501(c)3 organization to be able to raise money to fund a new shelter. The proposal still has several steps to go through before it will be approved by the whole board, but once established, fundraising for the new shelter will begin. To learn more about the many services offered by the SM Animal Shelter (such as pet adoption, which is available to all residents), I invite you to visit their new website: www.countypet.org

I will provide periodic updates on the progress of the new shelter in my monthly newsletter. To sign up for my newsletter please visit my website at www.supervisorwasserman.org.

County Supervisor Mike Wasserman wants to hear from you. Just email a question – with your name and contact info or anonymously if you must – and he’ll answer in his new monthly column. Send an email with your question to [email protected]

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