New Animal Services Contract Inked

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

November 4, 2022

The Morro Bay City Council followed its sister cities in SLO County and renewed its contract for animal control services, a charge separate from the debt payments on the County’s recently completed Department of Animal Services building on Oklahoma Avenue.

Police Chief Jody Cox’ report to the Council noted that SLO County Department of Animal Services (DAS) is the only game in town. “This is the only animal control and care service available in the County,” Chief Cox wrote, “and all other cities in the County contract with the County for this service.”

The City’s DAS contract actually ran out at the end of June, but Chief Cox said the County has extended the terms for the past several months, but now it’s time to sign a contract. 

The cost this fiscal year (2022-2023) is $47,053, which is “consistent with the past two fiscal  years,” Chief Cox said. 

Future charges will depend on how busy DAS is with calls in Morro Bay. “The County shall compute on an annual basis the fee assessed to the City for services provided under this contract. The County shall use a service-based methodology for determining city service fees.”

So the less the DAS gets called out to Morro Bay, the lower its future fees might be to the City. 

At $47,000, the contract would seem a bargain considering the range of animal-related services provided. Services include:

• Sheltering and medical care of stray, owner surrendered, confiscated, and quarantined household animals (mostly dogs and cats but potentially also including more exotic pets like snakes and rabbits);

• Reunification of sheltered animals with owners or adopted into new homes;

• Receipt and publication of lost and found animal reports;

• Response to calls for service from the Police Department or residents for stray or loose animals, dangerous or vicious animals, bite and neglect/abuse investigations, potential rabies exposure investigations and quarantines, pick up of deceased animals;

• Regulation of breeders and sales of domestic animals;

• Animal-related nuisance investigation; and,

• Enforcement of state and local animal-related laws.

Dealing with animal issues is State Law. “State law,” the Chief’s report said, “requires that the City provide a certain level of animal care and control services within its borders.”

The law enforcement side of DAS’ services include: emergency and non-emergency response of Animal Services officers for injured and stray animals; investigative services for animal bites, abuse and neglect; sheltering and quarantine services; dog licensing; animal adoption; and, other services as required either by State Law or the Morro Bay Municipal Code.” The Police Department administers the contract on behalf of the City.

As to future costs, the “service-based methodology” will look at several key points to calculate costs: field services; licensing; shelter operations; and education service. 

Calls for service within the City could potentially rise in one specific case, after the City absorbed Chevron Dog Beach, a stretch of Morro Strand Beach north of the North Point Natural Area.

That former private property owned by Chevron, as part of its Estero Marine Terminal, is now publicly owned by the City and the City has vowed to continue allowing dogs to be off-leash there. It’s the only public beach in SLO County where that is allowed.

The City also has a dedicated dog park located within Del Mar Park, where there have been some incidents between the pooches.

And with natural areas like Eagle Rock, Morro Bay State Park, and the dunes, the possibility of wildlife-related calls is high.

Under the contract, either party can terminate it and some services are up for negotiation. “The contract includes a provision for the parties to reopen the contract and address specific issues as needed during the contract term,” Chief Cox wrote. “This provision allows for continued negotiations on various terms that were not able to be addressed in time for the new contract to begin and provide continuous animal control and care services.” He didn’t elaborate on what that might be. 

The contract will be in force through FY 2024/25, he said.

As for the costs to the City for its share of the new $20.4 million DAS shelter, City Manager Scott Collins told EBN that the City’s share is about $27,000 per year (2.9% of total cost) for 25 years.

This is separate from and in addition to the $47,000 annual fee for services. 

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