City to look at spending $60K to support animal care 

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
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The city of Santa Clarita is looking to put aside $60,000 for grants to help animal nonprofits and offset adoption costs for residents in response to concerns brought to City Hall last year about local animal care services. 

A group of advocates are saying the right thing for a city Santa Clarita’s size to do is open its own no-kill shelter. City and county officials, based on historical data and service levels they’ve studied since the pandemic, say such an investment isn’t necessary. 

The city currently contracts with the L.A. County Department of Animal Care and Control, or DACC, for such services within city limits. 

The city’s plan to support its current shelter, as opposed to investing in a new no-kill facility, according to the council’s agenda, involves making $50,000 available in a number of grants, similar in nature to how arts grants are doled out, except that it would be overseen by an ad hoc committee of council members. 

The other $10,000 is meant to encourage more adoptions, according to Tracy Sullivan, city of Santa Clarita community preservation officer. 

“The proposed adoption promotion is aimed to encourage adoptions and eliminate potential barriers, such as the cost of fees, which run from $100 to $150 depending on the animal,” she wrote in an email Monday. “The recommended funding amount would cover between 65 and 100 animal adoptions per year, sponsored by the city. The proposed grant program is geared toward local nonprofit organizations doing important work for animals in our communities, and providing them with additional resources.” 

While the DACC maintains pet-adoption data, city officials confirmed that 252 dogs were adopted in 2022, 186 cats and 53 animals in the “other” category, which could include everything from rabbits to horses. These are only animals adopted out to city residents, per officials, not the shelter’s total. 

The topic first came to the city of Santa Clarita in February 2022 over concerns from local animal care advocates, who, noting the county facility was not a “no-kill shelter,” asked if there was anything more that could be done to help. 

A number of advocates have raised concerns during the public comment period of Santa Clarita City Council meetings in order to raise an alarm about what they see as the need for greater services locally. 

Kiza Hilton, a local volunteer and advocate, was one of a number of voices who’ve made the call for the city to open its own no-kill shelter. 

“Santa Clarita is the third-largest city in Los Angeles (County),” Hilton said to the council during a Feb. 22, 2022, meeting, sharing a refrain and statistic frequently cited by those calling for more local services. She also said the city is experiencing rapid growth and there are tens of thousands of pets here, so the nearest shelter being outside of city limits and a somewhat remote location for residents on the east side of town in Castaic makes it hard for the facility to coalesce the local support it needs. 

“Based on these basic facts, we need a no-kill animal shelter built within the city’s boundaries,” she said to applause from a number of those assembled at the meeting in support. 

The City Council responded by instructing city staff to study the issue. The city contracted Citygate to evaluate the numbers from the Department of Animal Care and Control, which were presented to the City Council in May. 

The data indicated that a no-kill shelter has at least a 90% save rate. 

In comparison, the city staff report noted: “In 2022, the live release rate for dogs coming in from the city to Castaic Animal Care Center was 89%. The live release rate for cats was 86%. Taking the average over the last five years, the live release rate for dogs was 91%, and the live release rate for cats was 81.6%.” 

Animal advocates showed up as a group to complain that the data presented was incomplete or inaccurate based on their experience in working with local animal shelters and nonprofits. 

County officials, including Marcia Mayeda, the director of Animal Care and Control in L.A. County, verified the figures provided to the city were accurate. It’s not clear what the shelter’s total live release rate is because the data in Citygate’s report only noted animals in DACC custody from city limits. 

During the May discussion, however, City Councilwoman Marsha McLean said that if the city steps in and foots the bill, it disincentivizes the county to perform the job it’s being contracted to do. 

“I think we need to ask the county to step up,” McLean said during the May discussion. “It’s their facility and the more money we put into it, the less they will.” 

Councilwoman Laurene Weste said she felt people, namely irresponsible pet owners, were the real problem. 

The city didn’t need to “re-birth it,” meaning add a new shelter, Weste said, when Santa Clarita has the resources, space and wherewithal to support the Castaic facility to the point where it’s a world-class one by embellishing it. 

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