Does San Francisco Animal Care and Control Need a New Animal Shelter?

Does San Francisco's Department of Animal Care and Control need a new shelter? The short answer is yes. The longer answer requires establishing some context. So to that end...

Unusual but not unique in the world of animal shelters, the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA is not only the nonprofit humane organization for this community but also, by contract, provides the State-mandated animal care and control services for San Mateo County and its twenty Cities. Our new Center for Compassion (1450 Rollins Rd, Burlingame) houses our charitably funded programs and services while our government-funded activities operate out of the older Coyote Pt. facility (12 Airport Boulevard, San Mateo).

In most communities in California, there is both a private humane organization (in some communities, more than one) and a government operated animal care and control agency. That is the case in San Francisco.

My first job in animal welfare began in 1978 at the San Francisco SPCA, back in the days when it too (like PHS/SPCA still does) had the contract to provide animal care and control services for SF. That contractual relationship ended back in 1989. And, back then in 1989, I left SFSPCA and was hired by then Mayor Diane Feinstein, and ACC Director Carl Friedman, as Deputy Director (Deputy Dawg to my friends) of the new City Department of Animal Care and Control.

I was hired around the first of the year, tasked with being ready for a July 1st opening of the new City Animal Shelter and its programs. Needing to house dogs, cats, rabbits, native wildlife, fighting cocks and every other creature great or small, we had precious little time to build that new facility. Knowing new construction would be impossible to complete in the time allotted, we took over an old warehouse building, gutted the interior, added kennels, cat wards, a squad room, adoption counters, veterinary facilities and offices. We were ready on Day 1, but it was never the state-of-the-art facility we had hoped for since there was neither the time nor the money for such.

We transferred in, if memory serves, something like 400 animals from SFSPCA into that new Shelter on our first day, a facility which has continued to operate now for the better part of three decades. That's a whole lot of wear and tear on a quickly designed and constructed facility.

Bottom line, the place functioned well - really rather remarkably well, in fact - but it's time has come. The City of St. Francis now faces the question of what to do next for the homeless animals.

A new shelter is needed to provide the proper care for the animals: medically and behaviorally. A new shelter is needed because the old digs are not up to current seismic standards, especially concerning since this is where animals will go when a next major quake leaves homes uninhabitable and animals in need of temporary care.

The question about whether or not to build a new shelter is now in the hands of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors. And while SF is of course a City with a lot of heart, with a lot of love for the animals, San Francisco is also a place of famously screwy politics.

If you think a new Animal Shelter is important (which would be the correct way of looking at this, IMHO), you may want to let the Supes know that. Go to http://www.sfbos.org/ if you need help figuring out which member of the Board represents your district and for contact info.