Deal to run San Bernardino city animal shelter out of Riverside falls apart

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- A plan to shut down operations at the troubled San Bernardino city animal shelter and hand those responsibilities over to Riverside County Animal Services has failed.

Despite a public hearing that lasted nearly two hours, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors never even voted on the issue. When it became clear there weren't enough votes to pass the measure, a motion to hold a vote was never made.

The decision was met by a round of applause by more than a dozen animal advocates who showed up at the meeting.

"Yes, (the San Bernardino shelter) needs repairs, and it's not in the best condition possible," said animal advocate Alice Chow of Grand Terrace, who was against sending the animals to Riverside County. "Every day is a day we're grateful to still have our shelter."

The problems at the San Bernardino city shelter are well documented and have been ongoing for years. The shelter is old and overcrowded, and despite the efforts of volunteers and rescue groups, there's still not enough funding to build a new facility.

San Bernardino City Police Department Capt. David Green, who oversees shelter operations, said there have been public offers of millions of dollars by celebrities and Fortune 500 CEOs, but they've amounted to nothing.

"We've received exactly zero dollars, and zero pledges," said Green.

Two months ago, the San Bernardino City Council voted to enter into a $2.1 million agreement with Riverside County Animal Services to handle their animal control out of the Jurupa Valley shelter. It's estimated that at least 6,500 animals from San Bernardino would have been housed there under the agreement.

But some felt that the shelter would be unable to handle the increase.

"We are going to tax our system to the max," said resident Laurel Jackson during the board of supervisors meeting Tuesday morning.

"Where are you going to house 9,000 more (animals) at Jurupa Valley," asked Jackson. "Our euthanasia numbers are probably going to increase."

Last year, the Jurupa Valley shelter took in 16,446 animals; 7,292 were euthanized; the vast majority were cats.

Although it initially appeared during the meeting that there was enough support to pass the agreement, the tide shifted when one of the supervisors asked how the county might handle a situation in which it hired new employees as part of this contract, but San Bernardino was to later opt out of the deal.

"Then we're stuck with five county employees," suggested Kevin Jeffries, Riverside County's 1st district supervisor.

Dr. Allan Drusys, director of Riverside County Animal Services, presented a hypothetical option.

"Unless we lay them off," stated Drusys. "Which we might not want to do, but we have historical turnover."

The response drew jeers from the audience. And it was enough for Jeffries to change his mind.

"That's a cost to our county, and I cannot support that," said Jeffries. "So, I will be voting no today."

After the meeting, Dr. Allan Drusys said regardless of the outcome, there's little reason to be excited. Especially from the perspective of the animals.

"I don't see how their lot in life will improve without some new sheltering system for the city of San Bernardino."
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