Area animal advocates who, for the better part of a year, have urged the city of San Bernardino to allow them to oversee the animal shelter rejoiced Monday, Feb. 11, as city leaders took the first step in relieving the Police Department of daily operations there.
“During this time that I’ve been advocating for the shelter, initially it was just our volunteers and rescues,” said Alice Chow, founder of the San Bernardino Animal Care Foundation. “But along the way, I’ve met many amazing and passionate residents and they are becoming more active with voicing what they want, and their needs. Many have come forward to see what they can do. They’ve been eager and willing to help, which makes us very hopeful that we now have the residents on our side.
“We can really make this a better shelter.”
Championed by Councilwoman Sandra Ibarra following more than two hours of public comment Monday, the city will allow area rescue organizations, nonprofits and volunteer groups to submit proposals to run the San Bernardino Animal Shelter.
Councilmen Theodore Sanchez and Jim Mulvihill opposed the move.
“We are ‘The Little Shelter That Could,’” Ibarra said from the dais. “Let’s do something positive with it. We’re going to solve this, not get rid of it.”
On Monday, city staffers presented council members three service delivery options associated with San Bernardino’s Animal Control Program. Among the lot, outsourcing services to Riverside County.
As they did last year, when the city first considered contracting with Riverside County, area rescuers and volunteers this week implored city leaders to look inward, not outward, for a solution to the current state of affairs.
“Getting rid of the shelter does not get rid of the problem,” one public speaker said.
Last summer, city leaders voted to keep the half-century-old shelter open for at least a year to allow area rescue groups, nonprofits and volunteers to raise money for repairs.
According to previous staff reports, the Chandler Place shelter needs new kennel design, climate control, ventilation and draining systems, and quarantine and animal care facilities. City staff has pegged the cost of building a new shelter at $18 million, though a formal bid has not been solicited.
The city currently has $642,000 in the Animal Shelter Improvement Fund.
Ibarra, who recently visited Upland’s volunteer-run animal shelter, sided with the contingent present Monday.
Councilman Henry Nickel followed.
“I visited the Upland shelter, and what really impressed me was they have a list of over 300 volunteers,” he said. “That’s an example of how city government and the community can work together to achieve common goals.”
While a formal request for proposals is being crafted, the Police Department will remain in charge of shelter operations.
Until a new shelter operator is selected, Ibarra suggested holding monthly adoption events to help animals there find homes.
Chow, a longtime animal advocate, said her nonprofit, which works with area rescues, volunteers and donors, plans to submit a proposal when the process begins.
“We’re very hopeful,” she said, “and grateful for the residents coming out and being a part of this.”
On a related note, city leaders kicked around a public speaker’s idea of putting either a bond measure or a sales tax measure before voters to see if they would be willing to pay for a new shelter.
Those discussions likely will be considered at a later date.
“Having a shelter,” Nickel said, “should and must be a priority in terms of the strategic vision of this city.”