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June 21, 2011 > Ohlone Humane Society: Quint-City Animal Shelter? OMG!

Ohlone Humane Society: Quint-City Animal Shelter? OMG!

By Nancy Lyon

A couple of weeks ago, through an email from an Oakland animal rescuer, I was made aware that the Alameda Animal Shelter (AAS) was on the chopping block and for budgetary problems the Alameda City Council was looking to outsource their yearly 1,000 plus shelter animals to other agencies.

During this conversation, she asked how we felt about the Fremont Animal Shelter very possibly accepting the contract. To say that I was stunned and appalled not only at the outrageousness of the idea... but the fact that this information would have to come from a casual conversation and had not been addressed publicly by city officials is an understatement.

Volunteers that have helped make the Alameda Shelter the award winning facility it is were only made aware that it was closing after a chance meeting with someone from the staff of another shelter offering condolences on the closure.

Issues that are known "hot potatoes" apparently must be deemed best handled in a hush-hush manner. Possibly too much public input was viewed as muddying the water and interfering with business. Unfortunately, it appears to also be the case in Fremont.

Perhaps I'm naive to think that citizens have a right to know about the activities of their elected officials and employees and the contracts they may enter into; agreements that directly affect the survival chances and well-being of many innocent lives.

Anyone with any shelter knowledge knows that an increase in the number of incoming animals results in increased exposure to disease with resulting death and illness. Larger numbers of dogs that must be doubled up because of lack of space have stress levels greatly intensified resulting in fighting and injuries.

Also, a 25-mile trip to a distant shelter will discourage Alameda residents to personally check for lost pets on a regular basis. San Leandro residents are presently less likely to make the even closer trip.

My information is that several area shelters were approached to shelter Alameda's sizeable animal impoundments and wisely turned down the proposal. They too, like Fremont and most municipal shelters, are overloaded and beyond capacity to humanely house animals; decisions based not only on lack of space but limited staff to provide adequate care for the animals.

Six years ago the Fremont City Council approved a contract with the City of San Leandro to shelter their animals after Hayward chose to not renew its contract with San Leandro. It was presented at Council that the impact on the Fremont shelter would be minimal and the number of San Leandro impounds would not be significant; that the numbers would somehow magically be spaced out with only a few incoming at a time.

If that presentation hadn't been based on such misinformation it would be laughable. It is impossible to estimate how many animals will be impounded at any given time and the tidy projected image proved to be sadly out of touch with reality. The number of incoming animals is influenced by many factors - season, weather and the economy to name but a few.

During this period, as a volunteer rescue liaison for the small Fremont Shelter, a position that I have held for more than 20 years, I can say without question that an increased number of adoptable animals were killed because of space limitations caused by the addition of San Leandro animals.

Because of crowding, animals have been doubled up, placed in the old night depository and the back sally port. Increased quarantined and confiscated animals overrun available kennel space and occasionally close regular wards - all while desperate people, forced to relinquish their pets because of the economy, had their beloved animals turned away to who knows what fate.

As hard as staff and volunteers work to save lives - and they truly do - time and existing shelter space is not on their side. I have personally seen the grim looks on staff faces as they pull the files of animals - many adoptable - that will be killed. It's a terrible burden on people that care; this is not their fault or responsibility; the fault lies directly with higher management who seeks additional revenue regardless of the consequences to animal welfare.

Not having access to the current status of negotiations all I can say is that it appears that the remaining candidates to shelter Alameda's animals are Hayward Animal Control and Fremont Animal Services... with Fremont as the primary contender.

It's rumored that the yearly income from sheltering Alameda's animals could be up to $100.000. However, is difficult to assess what the actual net amount would be, if any, when additional staff and supply costs are factored in. The cost to the animals would be great.

Will Fremont "Powers-That-Be" choose cash over compassion... its track record isn't promising to say the least.

Fremont's City Manager Fred Diaz and members of the City Council would like to hear your thoughts before it comes to a final vote.

Mr. Diaz can be reached at (510) 284-4000;
City Council members shared voicemail can be reached at (510) 284-4080

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