News

New holding facility for animals?

Representatives from the San Mateo County Environmental Health Department have been making the rounds of city and town council meetings, letting council members know of plans to tear down the 60-year-old animal-holding facility on Airport Boulevard in San Mateo and build a new one.

The representatives' message: Annual expenses for animal control services will go up as cities and towns share lease payments for a new, smaller and updated holding facility at an estimated cost of between $15 million and $20 million.

The county has not yet determined a funding source for the construction, health department spokeswoman Robyn Thaw said. The Board of Supervisors will address that issue once the councils have signed on to the memo of agreement -- as Woodside, Portola Valley and Atherton have done.

The county owns the land, which it leases for $1 a year to the Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA, which owns the current facility. The facility "has no monetary value," Ms. Thaw said; the county will own the new building. Groundbreaking is planned for July. Construction would take between 12 and 18 months, according to staff reports.

Councils have little room to maneuver in terms of costs. The Humane Society is the only animal-control services provider in the county.

The new facility is not meant for animals eligible for adoption. They are located two miles away at 1450 Rollins Road in Burlingame. The animals in the San Mateo shelter often look less than happy in photos. Asked to comment, Humane Society spokesman Scott Delucchi replied: "You see dogs in a park with green all around them, they're going to look better than in a cage."

The intake and holding facility is the place to turn to when looking for a lost pet or surrendering an animal that can no longer be cared for. There are cages, a spay-neuter-vaccination clinic, and a squad room for animal control officers, Mr. Delucchi said. Medical facilities are also available, but mainly to care for animals injured by vehicles. Euthanasia procedures also take place there. It is not a hospital.

With 45,000 animal visits per year, the facility gets more wear and tear than an ordinary building, Mr. Delucchi said. Dogs have been chewing what's chewable for decades. Proper maintenance and repairs would run $50,000 a year, according to staff reports. It's noisy in the way a jail is noisy, and not well ventilated.

"Animals that are stressed are more likely to get sick," Mr. Delucchi said. The improvements will include surfaces more comfortable for animals, improved heating and air conditioning, and better noise insulation, he said.

Costs to towns

The average annual leasing cost for each city or town will be prorated according to the demand for animal control services, as is done to determine the overall annual fee for each city or town. The prorated figures below are estimates based on three-year averages and city/town populations.

Here are the local allocations:

■ Portola Valley allocated $28,712 for animal control services in 2013-14 and will add between $3,000 and $4,000 more in lease payments.

■ Atherton allocated $52,180 for control services and will add between $4,300 and $5,750.

■ Menlo Park allocated $255,550 for services and would add between $23,750 and $31,770. The City Council is expected to vote on this matter soon.

■ Woodside allocated $64,000 and will add between $9,800 and $13,100.

Shelter services take up about 73 percent of the Peninsula Humane Society's operating budget, and about 27 percent go toward services in the field, including breaking up animal fights, dealing with biting animals and capturing animals at large, Mr. Delucchi said.

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