On Friday, the city of Alameda signed an agreement with animal rights advocates to help create a new nonprofit organization to run the city’s animal shelter.
The , currently operated by the , was last month as city departments were forced to make across-the-board budget cuts.
To prevent a shutdown, the city entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Friends of Alameda Animal Shelter (FAAS) and the Humane Society of Alameda (HSA) to assist in transferring management of the shelter to a nonprofit organization by Nov. 1.
“We think this is a win-win for the city and the shelter,” said Assistant City Manager Lisa Goldman.
Transferring the shelter should save the city about $734,000 and also prevent shelter services from being outsourced.
Under the new agreement, the city will use about $300,000 in existing shelter donations along with limited Police Department operating dollars, as bridge fund during the four-month transitional period.
“This is one small step,” said Nancy Bianchi, a volunteer at the shelter and president of FAAS. “The positive is they are not going to shut down the shelter on July 1 as planned.”
The objectives of the agreement are to develop and establish a nonprofit to run the shelter, identify sustainable funding sources for the new organization, establish a timeline for the transfer of the shelter, and determine the amount of funding the city will provide for the nonprofit.
Late last month, Goldman instructed all departments to present options for reducing their budgets.
In order to meet its $1.3 million budget target, the police department either had to close the shelter and cut four police officer positions, or cut nine police officer positions, said Goldman.
But animal shelter advocates protested the threatened closure, suggesting the city turn over the reins to a nonprofit organization, rather than outsource shelter services.
“There’s got to be a compromise,” Bianchi said in May.
FAAS circulated an online petition urging Alameda residents to save the shelter. As of June 20, 1,193 people had signed the petition.
To gain community support, the organization is also staging a rally at tonight’s special meeting of the City Council.
“It’s not over,” said Bianchi. “We still need public support.”
In 2010, 1,316 animals passed through the shelter, according to AAS statistics. Of these, 762 were dogs and cats, of which nearly 80 percent were adopted, returned to their owners or transferred to another facility. The rest were euthanized (only those classified as “unhealthy” or “untreatable”) or died of natural causes.
Without a shelter, there would be more animals, most likely not vaccinated, roaming the city’s streets, said Bianchi, and animal patrol officers would also no longer monitor Alameda for stray, lost and wounded animals.
“There’s more to think about than cutting the budget,” Bianchi said. “It’s a health and safety issue too.”
If FAAS and HAS don’t succeed in creating a sustainable nonprofit by November, Alameda’s police department will likely begin to contract for services with a neighboring shelter, such as Fremont.
However, Fremont is already servicing Newark, San Leandro and Union City, and may struggle to house more animals.
Bianchi said while she is thankful to the city for signing the agreement, the November deadline left FAAS and HSA little time to fully implement a new structure.
“We’ll try our hardest to have some type of plan going in the right direction,” she said. “But we’ll most likely go back to them to ask for more time.”
Goldman said the city’s priority is to close the $7.4 million budget shortfall.
“Ultimately we have to work to preserve the budget,” Goldman said.
The rally starts at 5:30 p.m. today, June 21, outside City Hall, prior to the 7 p.m. special city council meeting.