The city of Lodi will soon examine whether to retain its own animal services department or to consolidate with San Joaquin County and other cities.
A consultant hired by the county recommends that a countywide animal services agency be established, because the it will reportedly save money for the county and each city while improving service.
Consolidating efforts would save $1.4 million each year, according to a study by the Stockton-based Animal Protection League, a nonprofit volunteer organization to aid stray and abandoned animals at the county/city of Stockton animal shelter.
The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors directed its staff last week to discuss the idea with the cities of Lodi, Stockton, Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy. The cities of Escalon and Ripon didn't provide information for the study, but are interested in its results, County Administrator Manuel Lopez told the Board of Supervisors.
The Animal Protection League proposes a joint-powers agency among the county and its cities, a comprehensive animal care and control database, animal licensing, veterinary service, spay/neuter services, animal field services, adoption, human education and a volunteer program.
A centrally located animal shelter should be constructed, according to the report.
The city of Lodi has an animal shelter that is operated by the police department. City spokesman Jeff Hood said that the report contains a number of interesting recommendations.
"We'll review them carefully to see if it's feasible for the city of Lodi," Hood said.
City Councilman Larry Hansen says it will take a lot of convincing for him to support Lodi joining in with the county.
"I think Lodi's animal control services are second to none," Hansen said.
Hansen said that in today's economy, it will be difficult to construct a new countywide shelter. He also supports the work that the volunteer group, People Assisting the Lodi Shelter, does, and he said he'll do nothing to jeopardize the city's relationship with PALS.
Patricia Sherman, who operates Animal Friends Connection, which rescues cats and dogs and provides foster homes for them, said she is concerned about a system where there might be a single shelter 20 to 30 miles from Lodi.
County Supervisor Leroy Ornellas said he was concerned about residents of rural communities not knowing where the county shelter would be. Ornellas recommended extensive public education if a new animal care system is developed.
Animal control services cost the county and the cities of Lodi, Stockton, Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy a combined $3.5 million during the 2009-10 fiscal year, but a jointly run operation would cost only $2.1 million annually, according to the report.
There would be a one-time cost of an estimated $12.4 million to construct a large, centralized animal shelter. It would cost more if land has to be purchased, Lopez said.
The next step, Lopez said, is to discuss the idea with each of the participating cities.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.