We write to address your description of public comment at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors hearing regarding Animal Services.
The nonprofit Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) works collaboratively with Animal Services and other rescue partners to improve the department. Our comments, echoed by the spokesperson for Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter (BUNS), focused on delays in establishing contracts for services with nonprofit partners. We agree on the need for culture change at Animal Services, which is occurring through the Oversight Team’s work. That was our focus.
Those calling for a reduced Animal Services budget are mostly people with no shelter experience, narrowly focused on Santa Barbara’s dogs. We find their logic baffling. The average number of dogs at the Santa Barbara shelter has decreased by 50 percent thanks to creative programs by the new Community Outreach Coordinator. That position, along with a Director of Shelter Medicine, Veterinary Technician, and Dog Behaviorist, were all created to improve care of the animals. The resulting 92 percent live release rate is extraordinary for a municipal shelter.
Animal Services’ budget encompasses far more than just Santa Barbara’s dogs. It covers three shelters, including cats, rabbits, horses, and chickens (nearly 40 percent of animal intakes); 16,000 field calls, for everything from animal abuse investigations to fire evacuation response to hoarding cases; responsible pet ownership outreach (Project PetSafe); and a spay-neuter clinic to reduce pet overpopulation.
Until two years ago, our county was 56th out of 58 California counties in animal services spending. The current budget has allowed us to make huge strides in saving animals. It is disturbing that people claiming to care about animal welfare would argue for fewer, not more, resources.
Angela Walters Rockwell is executive director of ASAP; Lee E. Heller is a longtime volunteer.