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[whitespace] Humane Society Says It Will No Longer Shelter Stray Animals

Los Gatos--Beginning in July, stray animals picked up in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and Saratoga may be going to a new central shelter because of a recent change in state law, but officials don't know yet where the shelter will be built. The Humane Society of Santa Clara Valley announced on Dec. 18 that it will phase out its shelter, code enforcement and animal control contracts with eight cities and the county.

The Humane Society is scrapping the agreement because of its new mission to become a "no kill" shelter with a focus on adoptions, spay and neuter education, community outreach and cruelty investigation. But that means there will be a lot more animals to take care of, and cities will have to come up with their own animal control program--and the money to fund it.

Beginning July 1, cities will have to use alternative methods to shelter animals, but exactly what's going to happen is still up in the air. The Humane Society is holding a meeting with representatives of the eight cities affected by its new policy on Jan. 14.

Development Director Kellie Hayes says that the Humane Society will recommend a central facility, instead of one in each area. That approach, she said, will cut costs for cities and make it easier for pet owners to find their lost animals. She said the Humane Society will train its successors to run the shelter after responsibility is handed over this year. The Humane Society has also announced that it will not contract for animal control services after July 1, 2000 and will end licensing services in 2001.

But for now, the Humane Society says it won't stop admitting owner-surrendered pets or cut its adoption program. The Santa Clara shelter will also take some adoptable strays from the cities.

Humane Society officials say expanding the Santa Clara facility isn't fiscally feasible and wouldn't have a significant impact on reducing euthanasia. There's no more room to build at the Santa Clara shelter. Officials would also rather use their money for programs that reduce the number of unwanted animals.

The Humane Society handled 599 stray animals from Los Gatos, 460 strays from Saratoga and 31 from Monte Sereno for the fiscal year ending June 30. Most animals go to the Humane Society shelter on Lafayette Avenue in Santa Clara, but some go to smaller facilities in Gilroy and Palo Alto.

The changes come thanks to Senate Bill 1785, authored by State Sen.Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles). The bill, which passed in October and goes into effect on July 1, 1999, increases the mandatory holding requirements for all types of animals.

The bill also increased the three-day mandatory holding period for strays waiting to be reclaimed to five-days. Shelters must hold owner-surrendered dogs and cats, feral cats and other animals for up to four days. Previously, there was no minimum waiting period.

By increasing and creating mandatory holding periods, kennel space will be used to house animals deemed unadoptable before they can be euthanized.

"By extending the stay period, more animals would have more of a chance for adoption," Christie Arnold, director of the Santa Clara shelter, said. "But by extending stays, you end up keeping unadoptable animals for a longer time and have less time for adoptable animals. So unfortunately, more animals will end up euthanized unless more shelters are opened."

The Humane Society deems an animal adoptable if the animal is healthy and temperamentally sound. Age and appearance are not factors, Hayes says.

To help the cities and county in the establishment of their own sheltering program, the Humane Society has offered to help develop the shelters as well as to run and manage the shelters for a year to be turned back to the cities and county.

"I think what's important is that the splitting of the programs between the Humane Society and the cities in this manner is that, quite frankly, more animals will be adopted this way and fewer animals will be euthanized," Arnold said. "In the long run, we will see a drop in the number of strays."

The Santa Clara will continue to be an open doors facility for all animals after July 1, and will take any pet or farm animal surrendered by its owner.
Jeff Kearns (Michelle Ku contributed to this report)

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