By Dave Schwab
Humane Society bids for control of county’s animal services
The county is changing how it handles animal services by outsourcing them, and the nonprofit San Diego Humane Society (SDHS), among the bidders, said it will be a win-win for them even if they are not the chosen entity.
“If we are not chosen, we will continue to provide the level of care that we have for the last 138 years for this community — handling 30,000 animals a year right now, 20,000 companion and 10,000 wildlife,” said Katherine Shenar, chief of staff for SDHS, which is headquartered at 5500 Gaines St. in the Linda Vista/Morena area. “We have a full-time job already. If we don’t get the contract — we keep going. We don’t change who we are.”
And if SDHS gets the county contract?
Shenar said SDHS’s goal would be “the health of the animals and lessening the confusion for people, while striving to be more efficient providing care for the animals.”
Believing SDHS is best positioned to most efficiently run county animal services, Shenar said the nonprofit is laying the groundwork now, should the county approve its contract bid.
“We have met with the different cities and talked about what they need, with each community having a different focus, their own nuances,” said Shenar. “We’ve met with all of them and said, ‘Here are the services we provide: If you’re interested, we’re happy to negotiate with you.’”
The county informed its current animal services providers in six San Diego cities last July that things would be done differently beginning with the new fiscal year in July 2018.
“We informed them that contracting with them was over, that that was going to be the last year, and that they would need to get their own (contractor),” said Michael Workman, director of the County Communications Office.
Workman pointed out that San Diego County’s Animal Services Department will now only be responsible for unincorporated areas. He said there were originally three bidders for outsourcing animal services, with two now remaining: SDHS, and in-house with the Animal Services Department.
“Our [county’s] own employees doing the [animal services] job formed into a group, and they are now going to compete bidding against the Humane Society to retain the job,” he said adding, “Right now, [the employees] are putting together their bid.”
Once word got out that county animal services was being outsourced, Shenar said, “Citizens approached us to say, ‘Why don’t you guys offer to do those services?’”
SDHS’s chief of staff talked about what contracting out to provide county animals services would entail for the nonprofit.
“For us, it’s about building a relationship with the community,” she said. “It’s about education.”
Shenar talked about what SDHS is most proud of.
“As of July 2015, we were incredibly elated that San Diego, among the top 10 largest cities in America, had attained the status of zero euthanasia of healthy and treatable animals,” she said. “There is no other top 10 city in America that has accomplished that.”
Workman said it is uncertain exactly when the county Board of Supervisors will award the contract to either SDHS or its own employee-led group. The decision, however, will be made sometime this spring before the summer July 1 deadline for the start of the 2018-19 fiscal year.
“It’s not so much about doing the job, or making the numbers come out, but figuring out what [the contract] is asking for you to do as part of the job,” Workman said adding, “It’s very complicated. We have to keep it fair.”
Whether the county keeps animal services in-house, or opts instead to contract out with SDHS, Shenar said it’s important to keep the overall big picture in mind.
“The finish line is always moving,” she said. “We’re talking about continuing to save all the healthy and treatable animals.”
And to do that, SDHS needs help.
“We can’t do it alone,” Shenar said. “The only way we can continue to have zero euthanasia is to hold hands together, and wrap our arms around animals in this community. We have more than 5,000 volunteers, people who’ve opened their hearts — and homes — to animals. Our focus is to collaborate and to work in tandem with the entire community.”
The mission of SDHS is to promote the humane treatment of animals, to prevent cruelty to animals, and provide education to enhance the human-animal bond.
— Dave Schwab is a San Diego-based freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.