Humane Society scales down plan to rebuild Palo Alto animal shelter

New proposal focuses on expanded programs, improvements to existing shelter

The Palo Alto Humane Society (PAHS) has backed away from its earlier proposal to build a new state-of-the-art animal-services center for the city and is now offering to help expand the existing shelter to accommodate a host of new animal programs.

In the new proposal, which was outlined in a Nov. 14 memo, the nonprofit offers to form a partnership for expanded animal services, including an educational community center, to the existing facility on East Bayshore Road. The council's Finance Committee is scheduled to consider the new offer tonight.

The proposal is a down-scaled version of the one that the Humane Society offered in October 2013, when it envisioned a new state-of-the-art facility that would include dog training and recreation, an education center, housing for special-needs animals and wellness clinics. The project had an estimated cost of $10 million to $12 million, which the Humane Society offered to raise for the city.

"PAHS wants to create an exciting place in Palo Alto that parallels centers in other communities and shines as a civic centerpiece for the City," the October 2013 memo stated. "The residents have shown their passion for animal welfare and would welcome a new an exciting vision for their shelter."

Since then, the Human Society held several community meetings to gather input about what types of services should be added to the shelter. The new proposal reflects the input it received, said Carole Hyde, the Humane Society's executive director.

Hyde told the Weekly that the expansion is estimated to cost between $2 million and $3 million. If the city agrees to the proposal, the organization would help raise funds for the project, she said.

Even so, the new focus would have the Humane Society contribute primarily through new programs, rather than through an ambitious capital project.

The programs it proposes include Critters Club (a school-based club that focuses on animal needs), Mow Wow Animals (a web-based curriculum that targets elementary school students), and PAWS 2 PAHS (a program in which dogs visit classrooms).

"This partnership is suitable to PAHS's organizational strengths, staffing, financial depth, and current and recent programs," the new proposal states. "We believe the future of Animal Services is best served if the shelter is operated by the City and made vibrant with a community program provided by Palo Alto Humane Society."

The expanded programs would require a larger facility, under this proposal. Hyde said that if the city agrees to partner with the Humane Society on an expanded shelter, it would "effectively turn the shelter into a community center." She called the new proposal "practical and focused."

"I think the Palo Alto Humane Society is clearly prepared to make a major contribution," Hyde said "It's a discussion about partnering and whether funding can be done through partnering."

Interest in the city's animal shelter began to mount in 2012, when the city proposed outsourcing its animal services in the wake of Mountain View's decision to withdraw from a long-standing partnership in the facility. The decision left the city with a financial hole that has been growing every year since.

According to a new staff report, the net cost (expenses minus revenues) went from $420,055 in 2013 to $893,403 in 2014. The 2015 budget estimates that the net cost this year will be $910,941.

The city is also conducting an audit on existing animal services to "evaluate and compare best practices and the efficiency and effectiveness of the services provided, including whether Animal Services receives all revenues to which it is entitled and, whether improvements can be made in operations to allow the program to break even with the cost of services provided."

Staff is proposing to defer any decisions about a future partnership with PAHS until after April 2015, when the audit is scheduled to be completed.

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Like this comment
Posted by AnnualCosts
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 2, 2014 at 11:37 am

I am highly in favor of the animal shelter remaining.
However, I wonder whether the annual costs of running the shelter will remain at almost $1 million/year after the improvements are made.
Or does the PAHS envision their programs raising and contributing to the annual operating costs?
No bias or innuendo here - just asking the question.

Like this comment
Posted by Shut-It-Down!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2014 at 12:34 pm

> The programs it proposes include Critters Club (a school-based club that
> focuses on animal needs), Mow Wow Animals (a web-based curriculum that targets
> elementary school students), and PAWS 2 PAHS (a program in which dogs visit classrooms).

How are these "programs" remotely in line with a City-provided animal shelter that is supposed to be operated for public safety? The idea that the tax payers should have to contribute one penny to the never-ending craziness that goes on in this town boggles the immagination, and vexes the soul.

It's one thing to operate some sort of service to protect citizens from rabid dogs, or cayotes, and to put down cougars that have decided to take up residence in someone's back yard--but to spend this kind of money on animals, and particularly the animals of non-residents is really close to fiscal impropriety on the City and the Council.

Shutting this facility down, and outsourcing the esential services to a more central agency makes all the sense in the world. There are plenty of vets in the area that can provide all of the esential services for animal medical needs.

Clearly, those promising to raise the money for the palace they think they deserve have demonstrated that talk is cheap. Why should the taxpayers, particularly those who don't see a tight urban space like this a good place for animals, to have to pick up the tab for their far-out ideas about what a animal control service run by the City should be.

3 people like this
Posted by catmomleonorilda
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Palo Alto Humane Society's (PAHS) proposal speaks to the need to educate the broad community, which includes Palo Alto as well as Palo Alto's less fortunate neighbors, about animal care and humane issues. By creating a new community space in which these issues can be addressed, more young people and adults will be able to participate in discussions and take action to help abandoned animals, work toward humane treatment of dogs trained for fighting, and contribute in a meaningful way in community service projects. The recent election for City Council in Palo Alto underscored residents' overriding concerns—that their community does not exist to facilitate profits for developers and other interlopers interested in nothing more than making a oodles of fast bucks at the expense of the community. What PAHS has proposed works toward building a better and more caring community, one that acknowledges that animals are a part of this community, that caring for them should be a community-based endeavor, and that Palo Alto deserves a good, updated shelter that represents community values.

2 people like this
Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm

PAHS should be embarrassed at this about face. Suddenly no capital campaign but a few programs.

Maybe everyone involved who was coming from a place of competitiveness rather than reality realized how much money and work this would really be. It was never necessary to have state of the art blah blah blah, since it's bracketed by two state of the art shelters from the north and south. Sure, it needs improvements, deserves respect and help, but Palo Alto can't be state of the art in every way - especially when the cops still oversee animal welfare.

8 people like this
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 2, 2014 at 3:27 pm

When I think of the cost of various studies and consultants employed by the city, not to mention state of the art gymnasiums, et cetera, it's sad to know that creatures in need are placed so low on the totem pole. In a civilized society shouldn't care of the voiceless be among the highest of priorities?

2 people like this
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Dec 2, 2014 at 4:46 pm

@Nora Charles -

Thank you for your caring post.
You wrote: "... In a civilized society shouldn't care of the voiceless be among the highest of priorities?"

Sadly, my experience was that any attempt of the voiceless to be heard, have them marked, instantaneously, as uncivil.
My guess would be that this is the one of the main reason keeping the voiceless silent, voiceless.
Being ignored goes without saying, even. Either way - silent or trying to be heard.

Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 2, 2014 at 5:09 pm

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 3, 2014 at 7:33 am

mauricio is a registered user.

The tax payers have been financing, directly and indirectly, unnecessary and worthless consultants, greedy developers, out of town soccer players and park users, etc. Why shouldn't some tax money in one of the wealthiest towns in the country go toward sheltering helpless and abandoned animals and educating the public about them?

7 people like this
Posted by Cassandra F.
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Anyone who has followed the Palo Alto animal shelter realizes that Palo Alto is decades behind all the other Peninsula communities in providing any sort of rescue and animal service function. For a community as wealthy as Palo Alto, this is downright shameful.

But the sideshow generated by the Palo Alto Humane Society is pretty shameful too. And I feel duped. I was so excited about the proposal to rebuild and expand the shelter. As I read the material from this weeks meetings, it is obvious that the proposal hasn't been "scaled down", everything meaningful from the proposal has been completely withdrawn. There is no there there. As to offering support with community programs and education: isn't that what PAHS is already doing? According to the PAHS website, these programs have been going on in Palo Alto for years. Fine. But how does listing these same old programs in a memo to the City constitute a fix for the shelter problem? It doesn't.

And when and where were these "public meetings" where residents said they didn't want a new shelter, they just wanted a grab-bag of existing community and education program? Doesn't sound like any public meeting the public was invited to!

Looks like a lot of hand-waving and tap-dancing to disguise the big "oops...never mind" that PAHS just sent the City. And now we are back to the same old problem: Palo Alto needs a real animals services program. It's just a year or two wasted without any meaningful planning for the future.

7 people like this
Posted by orchid-fan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 3, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Really? The ambitious proposal for a brand-new shelter is knocked down to a few additional educational programs? I am all for education, but teaching school kids how to care for their household pets, or having dogs visit classrooms, is not going to help stem the tide of homeless animals, mostly cats, in our city and immediate vicinity who need temporary housing and vet care until being adopted by community members. Palo Alto's 'management' needs to step up and invest the needed funds to repair, improve and continue to operate the Palo Alto Animal Services shelter. The city should be embarrassed for considering (again!) contracting animal services to another woefully inadequate shelter farther south on the Peninsula. And what of our community's residents seeking nearby low-cost spay/neuter and vaccination services, or visiting the shelter to adopt a pet or seek a lost one? While private, nonprofit, volunteer-run rescue groups are doing a yeoman job of getting cats and dogs off the streets and into adoptive homes, the numbers of such groups and individuals have shrunken these last few years as exhausted rescuers are over-burdened and under-funded, and just plain burned out. Educational programs are great, but do not serve the immediate need for an efficiently operating shelter.

1 person likes this
Posted by Carol Gilblert
a resident of University South
on Dec 12, 2014 at 10:02 am

If scaled down is the best we can do, at least it is better than losing the shelter. A community like Palo Alto should be able to take care of its poor among us--human and otherwise. Perhaps some time in the future, the shelter can be more totally redone. Until then, at least we don't lose it.

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