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[whitespace] Sunnyvale stays ahead of the curve in animal control

City provides its own services for animal control

Sunnyvale--With the June 30 deadline looming for the Human Society to end its contract for sheltering and animal control with Santa Clara County cities, Sunnyvale is one step ahead of the game. The city has long provided its own field services (animal control).

It was in October 1998, that the state Legislature passed a "no-kill" bill, sponsored by then Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D--Los Angeles).

The bill, meant to give sheltered animals a better chance for adoption, in fact, did the reverse, by taking from shelters the discretion to determine how long stray, feral and surrendered animals must be held.

Those in the animal shelter business predicted that, without that discretion, they would face severe overcrowding and the end result would be adoptable animals euthanized earlier than they might have been otherwise.

The Humane Society announced that it would get out of the sheltering and animal control business, and cities began to scramble for a solution. The result was the creation of the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority. Members of the Joint Powers Authority, in addition to Sunnyvale, are Santa Clara, Saratoga, Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos and Monte Sereno.

An extension of the deadline and a renegotiated contract with the Humane Society bought breathing room, but with breathing room running out on June 30, the JPA has been working overtime. In recent months, members, with representation from each of the seven member cities, elected officers--including Sunnyvale City Councilman Fred Fowler as chairman, and hired Debra Biggs as general manager. The JPA is also looking at a site for housing its shelter. They are looking at a couple of sites, but are currently undecided.

According to Fowler, "Immediate action must be taken to find homes for these animals." But he also says that Sunnyvale is unique in that it has always provided its own in-house field service (animal control). When the contract with the Humane Society expires, he says, Sunnyvale will only have to worry about sheltering. For the other cities in the JPA, a solution to animal control must also be found.

"The program we have is really state of the art," Fowler says, of the city's Public Safety Animal Control. "They have their own trucks with a water supply for the animals and climate control."

Capt. Chuck Eaneff, of Sunnyvale Public Safety, calls those who work in animal control "very dedicated professionals."

He points out that they not only provide animal control services, but they have discovered crimes involving animals, including cock fighting and dog fighting.

"They recognize it and take appropriate steps to stop it. They really have come to the rescue of the animals in the community," Eaneff says.

Eaneff adds: "They are always trying to benefit the animals and the people. I can't overestimate the impact they've had on the neighborhoods of the community. They are technical experts in the area of animal abuse."

At a public hearing on May 21, the JPA board gathered ideas from residents, the Humane Society and other concerned parties to help determine such details as fees for dog licensing and boarding.
Gretchen Knaup

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