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City and county still analyzing outcomes for animal shelter 

No solid decisions for future of Paso and Atascadero animal shelter

—San Luis Obispo is home to the only county-run animal shelter, built in 1975 on top of an old landfill, and according to a letter sent in 2015 from Jeff Hamm, Director of the San Luis Obispo Health Dept, the Humane Society of the United States found the shelter to be in need of repair and improvements.

The shelter serves the cities of San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Atascadero, Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach, and Morro Bay. In 2015, county officials agreed the Animals Services Division building must be replaced, because the current facility is not only lacking heating and ventilation, but also promotes stress, illness, and behavioral problems. The unwelcoming environment may even be discouraging to the general public, possibly stopping them from visiting, and is believed to have an adverse impact on adoption and stray reclaiming rates. Around 4,500 animals are received by the shelter annually, dogs and cats accounting for 92-percent.

The County of SLO has been designing and planning for the construction of a new, 15,000 sq. ft. facility on a site adjacent to the current one, on a property near Woods Humane Society. The new facility is planned to have a capacity to hold 65 dogs, and 100 cats, an outdoor exercise courtyard, quarantine space, exam and treatment rooms, and administrative offices. The updates are necessary to fully address the needs of animals in the shelter, and to implement the many recommendations from the Humane Society Of The United States.

Last year, Paso Robles and Atascadero City Councils both voted to opt-out of San Luis Obispo County’s costly $14 million dollar animal shelter.  The cities of Paso Robles and Atascadero had previously signed onto the county’s project, in 2017, after 3 years of discussions. Paso and Atascadero are currently looking into whether operating a shelter by a private entity or non-profit is more cost-effective, but there are still questions and more cost analyses that need to be done before any decisions can be made. A recent meeting in February between city officials and the county resulted in no further agreements, because the county costs hadn’t been lowered enough for construction and ongoing service payments. Both city councils felt rushed into making a decision by the county board of supervisors.

Paso Robles officials estimated that if they were to build a new animal shelter site in North County, costs would be between $4.5 and $5.2 million. If Atascadero and Paso Robles stayed with the county plan they would be responsible for $1.7 million, and $2.2  million, respectively. Annually, the taxpayers of Paso Robles would be responsible for paying $485,000. Paso Robles only accounts for 19-percent of shelter occupants, and Atascadero with 14-percent of shelter occupants.

No decision has been reached as to what exactly Paso Robles and Atascadero plan to do, but they have been talking with Petaluma animal services for operations services. San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande sent letters to Paso Robles and Atascadero, asking them to not drop out of the agreement last year. Arroyo Grande officials agreed that if city costs exceed 15-percent, they would opt-out as well. The county still plans on going ahead with the shelter regardless of which cities take part in financing and using it. The county may need to redesign the shelter, and costs could go up for other cities.

Paso and Atascadero would like to build a “no-kill” animal shelter based in Paso Robles, and may end up contracting with a Sonoma County-based nonprofit organization, Petaluma Animal Service Foundation. Only time will tell what is the best decision for the cities of Paso Robles and Atascadero.




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