San Martin
– A year before county officials decided to cut $90,000 from the
San Martin Animal Shelter and close its doors an extra day a week,
a $95,000 study found the shelter should expand and add more
n By matt king Staff Writer

San Martin – A year before county officials decided to cut $90,000 from the San Martin Animal Shelter and close its doors an extra day a week, a $95,000 study found the shelter should expand and add more staff.

Without the relocation and construction of a larger facility, the report said, the county “will not be able to provide care for an increasing animal population as mandated by state law.”

The study, accepted by the county in April 2004, was the second in five years to say that the current facility, on Murphy Avenue, is not sufficient to address animal services in South County. But on Sept. 1, the shelter will reduce its hours of operation from 34 to 28 a week and close on Mondays in addition to Tuesdays. And at the moment, county officials have no concrete plans to relocate the facility or expand services in the future.

“I’m dumbfounded,” said Phillip Jewitt, Santa Clara County’s animal control manager. “What they’re doing isn’t consistent with what needs be done.”

There are five animal shelters in the county, but the San Martin facility is the only one in South County, and for that reason the study labels it the county’s “most significant” shelter.

According to the report, the shelter must be moved because it is directly in the path of a runway that will be built when South County Airport expands to accommodate corporate jet traffic. And it must be expanded because it already houses more animals than it has room for. On a typical day in 2001, the shelter housed 2.3 dogs in each of its kennels and had one veterinarian for every 103 animals. The study projects those numbers to climb to 3.4 and 164 by 2025.

The study, which has been public for more than a year, but never formally released, provided more ammunition Friday to shelter volunteers who have been excoriating Agriculture Commissioner Greg Van Wassenhove and Supervisor Don Gage for making the cuts.

“If they want to clear the way for the airport, that’s fine,” said Evon Dumesnil, a member of the friends of San Martin Animal Shelter, or FOSMAS, “but let’s build the shelter like the report suggests.”

Dumesnil said the county’s priorities are reflected in the $900,000 fence it’s constructing at the minimum security Boys Ranch in Morgan Hill. That money was appropriated out of contingency funds after well-off residents in housing developments near the ranch complained about runaways.

“How is it that they can come up with a million dollars for a fence and cut $90,000 and cry poorman?” she asked.

FOSMAS members maintain that closing the shelter an extra day will hurt the county’s bottom line because fewer animals will be adopted and the shelter will lose stature in the community. Van Wassenhove said Friday that those complaining about the cuts fail to grasp the economic reality the county is facing. He said staff cuts made at the shelter were just two of the nearly 200 vacant positions the county has cut in the last two years, and that current staff levels do not support a six-day-a-week operation. The study, he said, recommends, a new shelter but does not insist that it be built immediately.

“The report serves as a guideline for the future,” Van Wassenhove said. “It gives people a sense of what’s needed down the line. It doesn’t say when to build it.”

The report puts the cost of a new shelter at about $7.2 million. Gage said that it will only be built when the economy improves. He said that the shelter may still get a last-minute reprieve and remain open on Mondays, and all but promised that the shelter will never close or leave South County.

“There will be a shelter. There’s too much of a need down here,” Gage said. “But we can’t spend more money than we take in. If things take a turn for the worse, there could be a point in time when we have to shut it down.”

Matt King covers Santa Clara County for The Times. Reach him at 847-7240 or [email protected].

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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