For at least a decade, the amount of resources dedicated to the Animal Care and Control agency has remained flat even as The City is known for having more dogs than children at an estimated 120,000.
Supervisor Scott Wiener, who says his District 8, which includes the Castro and Noe Valley neighborhoods, has more pet owners than other supervisorial districts, is calling on city leaders to boost funding for the Animal Care and Control office.
“It is very important that we as a city provide a safety net agency that is being funded and staffed in a way that matches the critical importance and significance of animals in this city,” Wiener said. “We have not done that.”
Data presented during a Thursday Board of Supervisors committee hearing called by Wiener showed the agency’s budget in fiscal year 2003-04 was $3 million and has grown to $4.9 million currently due to costs such as employee health care. While the agency’s staff has remained at 41, about two animal care officers have been left to respond at any given time to between 12,000 and 13,000 calls for service annually.
The agency, run by director Rebecca Katz and overseen by the City Administrator’s Office, performs multiple functions including enforcement of state and local animal laws, veterinarian services, providing an open-door shelter and responding to animal abuse cases.
Wiener said he’s received increasing complaints from residents about the lack of response to unruly dogs in dog parks. He also noted that the agency’s shelter had to temporarily close down two days a week due to budget problems.
Additionally, because the agency is housed in an aging facility, The City is exploring whether to renovate or relocate the facility.
Some animal advocates believe a greater investment into the agency would unleash its potential. Longtime dog care advocate Sally Stephens, who chairs the advisory Animal Control and Welfare Commission, said that with more resources the agency could achieve the “no-kill” goal for sheltered animals and also launch innovative programs.
“For example, they could administer programs to pair shelter animals with kids in the juvenile justice center or inmates in county jail,” Stephens said.
The agency handled 10,307 animals last fiscal year, including cats, dogs and birds. There is a daily average of 500 animals in its shelter.
Wiener said he will make increasing funding for the agency one of his priorities in next year’s city budget process, which kicks off in February when departments submit proposed budgets to the Mayor’s Office.