City to discuss recommendation on animal shelter 

Animal Care and Control Sergeant Cesar Chavez displays the nearly 50 empty cat kennels at the Los Angeles County Animal Care Center in Castaic on Friday, May 08, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Santa Clarita city staff is recommending the city not open its own no-kill animal shelter in a report set to be discussed by City Council for Tuesday’s council meeting. 

The city contracted with consultants from Citygate for a feasibility study into replacing the services that it pays L.A. County Animal Care and Control for, with its own city-run no-kill facility. 

“Citygate ultimately recommends that the city continue contracting with DACC for animal sheltering, as the Castaic Animal Care Center provides important services that have resulted in increasingly positive outcomes for animals entering into its care,” according to the resulting 56-page report. “The report does not recommend that the city build a secondary shelter, as DACC is adequately serving the community’s needs and adheres to industry best practices.” 

The study was spurred by a group of residents, including Kiza Hilton, who made a formal request for the city to look into the matter in February 2022, due to concerns about crowding at the Castaic Animal Shetler, the primary service provider for the area. 

Part of the reason for the city-shelter push is that Castaic shelter’s intake numbers, echoing a national trend, started to see an uptick in intakes as the nation recovered from COVID-19 after seeing a dramatic reduction during the pandemic, which is noted in Citygate’s report.  

Of the 481 dogs taken in during 2022, according to the report, 252 were adopted, 140 were returned to the owner, 37 went to a rescue organization and 52 were euthanized. 

There were about 100 fewer dogs taken in during 2021, but in the last year before the pandemic, the Castaic shelter took in 829 dogs. The live release rate (LRR) for cats coming in from the city from 2017 through 2022 ranged from 67% to 86%, with the highest rate in 2022. “The LRR for dogs ranged from 86% to 93% over the same period, with the highest rate occurring in 2019,” the report notes.  

Hilton, a longtime donor and volunteer for the Castaic shelter, said she was disappointed by word of the report Friday, particularly in light of the fact that she was able to get about 3,000 signatures in support of a city shelter back in 2022.  

However, she also said she met with Jason Crawford, the city’s director of community development, and was very encouraged to hear the city was taking some actions to support local nonprofits. 

“Even though it was disappointing that the city decided it was not necessary to build a shelter, at least they’re going to do other things to help improve animal care in the Santa Clarita Valley,” Hilton said, referring to the recommendations in front of City Council in the staff report. 

The report the city paid for listed seven specific suggestions for how the city might better support animal services in Santa Clarita, in addition to keeping its contract with the DACC. 

The suggestions included more collaboration with Castaic, more city-sponsored events, an expansion of the city’s website to include the DACC; a special project that includes DACC collaboration; and the potential for a city-supported capital campaign to upgrade the shelter. 

Ultimately, the decision will be up to the Santa Clarita City Council, although cost could factor into the discussion. 

Citygate’s 56-page report notes the city pays approximately a half-million dollars for its animal care services, with gross billings from the DACC equal to about $780,260, minus about $253,000 in credits it receives. The report did not cite the cost of opening a new animal shelter. 

Animal Care and Control officials didn’t have a comment on the report ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, but Don Belton, press information officer for the agency, said DACC officials would be in attendance to participate in the discussion. 

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