Existing Animal Shelter
In 2013, LAFCo contracted with the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program (KSMP) to conduct an analysis determining what programs and staffing levels are needed to support Yolo County’s animal population in compliance with state regulations. The LAFCo/KSMP Yolo County Animal Services Governance Study (“2013 Governance Study”), determined that “the physical facility at the Yolo County Animal Services ("YCAS") is inadequate, outdated, and compromises the program’s ability to adequately serve the community.” Specifically, the study found that the existing shelter, which was built in the 1970s:
Indigo Architects, which was hired by the County in 2016, prepared conceptual designs and cost estimates for two plausible shelter options: one for a new shelter and one converting Woodland’s Fire Station #3 into an animal shelter. Both shelter options incorporate best practices for shelter design and operations. The cost estimate for the new shelter design is $24.5 million (2017). The estimated costs for the repurposed Woodland Fire Station #3 shelter ranges from $13.7 million to $15.8 million (2017). It is important to note that the estimated costs for both shelters do not include the cost of the land (or fire station #3 building) on which either shelter could be located. Information regarding the two shelters and others evaluated by Indigo and estimated cost information is included in Attachment A.
- Does not meet current facility standards;
- Does not meet shelter medicine best practices;
- Lacks key program elements for animal health; and
- Is not of sufficient size.
To assist in the development of a new animal shelter, Unleashing the Possibilities (UTP), a California non-profit organization, was created to fundraise for a new animal shelter. UTP has committed to raise $5 million. However, based on newly identified fundraising efforts and assistance, that amount could be $8 million or more. The fundraising effort will offset the cost of a new shelter. In addition, funds could be placed in an endowment to help offset the shelter operating costs.
Animal Shelter JPA
The 2013 Governance Study also identified the establishment of an animal shelter Joint Powers Authority (JPA) as a means to provide participating jurisdictions with increased control over budget and operational decision making, which currently does not exist. The study identified the minimum program and staffing levels required to meet state mandated legal requirements, provide humane care, and maintain positive outcomes for animals. Although the formation of an animal services JPA would also result in operational cost savings through the potential for lower costs associated with decreased average salary and employee benefits, the study also identified additional “non-core” program and staffing options that are not legally required, but could help leverage outside resources, increase revenue generation, and reduce animal intakes to offset agency costs. A JPA can provide a greater voice for each member agency, giving them increased control over costs and the development of revenue generating programs.
Non-Core Programs to Increase Revenue
In addition to the core animal shelter programs (kennel/shelter services, veterinary medical and spay/neuter services, and field services), implementation of non-core programs in a new animal shelter (whether in a new or repurposed building) would provide an up-front investment in slightly elevated staffing and programming levels. However, that could enable the JPA to expect a significant return on investment in future years.
These additional programs include:
Improved licensing through field education and canvassing, and cat licensing;
Each of these programs and the benefits for cost savings as described in the 2013 Governance Study is discussed briefly below.
- Volunteer recruitment and management to supplement core staff;
- Community education and outreach activities; and
- Development and fundraising.
A robust animal licensing program provides funding for the animal control and sheltering program, ensures rabies vaccination compliance, and assists in animal reunification with owners. This requires an efficient system of issuing licenses, processing applications, and enforcing compliance such that the licensing program results in net revenue that can offset other costs of the animal control and sheltering program. Under the JPA, the licensing program could be expanded to include:
• Mandatory cat licensing
• Increased outreach and enforcement
• Offering incentives to those who license their animals in a timely manner
As an example of improved licensing efforts, after Stanislaus County created its animal shelter JPA in December 2010, it expanded its licensing canvassing operations and increased the number of licenses it maintained from 10,485 in December 2010 to 28,300 by February 2011.
KSMP in the 2013 Governance Study, assumed that with its licensing recommendations above (not including mandatory cat licensing), the percent of dogs licensed in the County could increase from 30 percent to 40 percent, resulting in approximately $130,000 in increased revenue.
Investment in a successful volunteer program can be cost effective, as well as helpful in improving shelter operations and community perception. Many agencies make extensive use of volunteers, to assist with kennel cleaning, animal care, public outreach, foster care, and adoption events. As volunteer support becomes more prevalent and stable, the need for paid staff could decrease.
Outreach and Development
Public outreach and engagement are an essential component of a successful shelter program. Additionally, private support plays a key role in animal sheltering nationally and statewide. Reflecting this reality, successful animal services organizations typically leverage private support as well as public funding to achieve their goals. The 2013 Governance Study provides these recommendations for a successful outreach and development program in Yolo County:
• Hire a dedicated Outreach and Development Coordinator
• Pursue outside funding options through grant proposals, donations, and fundraising
• Market shelter programs and animals through media, newsletters, and public awareness events
• Actively use website and social media
• Provide humane education to the community through various outlets
• Leverage volunteers for outreach and education in the community
The inclusion of an outreach and development program with appropriate staffing would provide the opportunity to solicit ongoing revenue for the organization and promote shelter activities and public education. These activities would serve to reduce the operating costs of the shelter.
The 2013 KSMP Governance Study found that the greatest costs would likely be incurred early in the JPA’s evolution, and could be expected to decrease with time. Specifically, by providing an up-front investment in slightly elevated staffing and programming levels, a significant return on investment in future years could be expected. This would be accomplished through sustainable long-term improvements, such as provided by the non-core programs identified above, and staffing which would result in decreased intakes, shorter lengths of stay for animals, greater community/volunteer engagement, and increased leveraging of outside funding and resources. As efforts are implemented to reduce intakes and shorten length of stay, less staff would be needed to serve the daily population. Additionally, as volunteer support becomes more prevalent and stable the need for paid staff may decrease.
Shelter Operating Cost Example
To provide an example of the potential operating costs associated with a new animal shelter operated by a JPA, an evaluation was conducted to estimate the operating costs of the repurposed Woodland Fire Station #3 (it's important to note that the City has not yet identified their preferred reuse alternative should fire services transfer to a new facility from Fire Station #3) operated by a JPA. As shown in Attachment A, all of the estimated operating costs of the shelter options, except for the repurposed Woodland Fire Station #3 operated by a JPA (Option D1), show an increase of over $1 million above the existing shelter operating cost of $2,763,549. The cost increases are largely attributed to additional staffing levels and vet services proposed under the new shelter options. However, for the repurposed Woodland Fire Station #3 operated by a JPA, the estimated operating costs could be reduced to approximately $604,000 above the existing shelter operating costs of $2,763,549 (2017). The lower operating costs are largely due to the potential for lower costs associated with a decreased average salary and employee benefits.
The analysis for the repurposed Woodland Fire Station #3 operated by a JPA conservatively estimated that program operating costs could be further reduced to approximately $414,000 above the existing shelter operating cost if some of the programs to increase revenue discussed in the 2013 KSMP Governance Study were implemented (the analysis assumed an additional licensing revenue increase of $100,000 and donations/grants of $90,000). Attachment B includes a breakdown of the shelter operating costs using the repurposed Woodland Fire Station #3 operated by a JPA as an example (It is identified in Attachment B as Option D repurposed fire station and Option D1 repurposed fire station operated by a JPA.) The recommended staffing levels for this option attempt to reflect a long-term return on investment through the incorporation of the non-core programs to generate additional revenue. When possible, a core of supervisory and consistent skilled staff is recommended, supported by lower cost and flexible positions that can be adjusted or eliminated as needs change.
Attachment C provides an estimate of what the cities’, UC Davis’, and Yolo County’s share of the total annual capital and operating costs could be for the repurposed Woodland Fire Station #3 and the new animal shelter designed by Indigo in March 2017, if either were operated by a JPA. The costs in the Attachment do not include any cost reductions associated with the implementation of the non-core programs mentioned above or an endowment from fundraising activities.
Creation of the JPA and New Animal Shelter
The creation of the JPA, staffing, and programs could revolve around the development and operation of a new animal shelter, which would function as an Animal Resource Center (ARC) for the surrounding community. The ARC could consist of a pet adoption center, pet and animal education center, and large animal care facility. By developing a new shelter with sufficient space, as identified by Indigo with the new shelter or repurposed Woodland Fire Station #3, there would be room for implementation of the non-core programs identified above, as well as additional revenue generating services such as pet grooming and training, a vet services clinic, and space for events such as birthday parties and children’s camps.
The new animal shelter would be developed based on the needs of the JPA. It would utilize best practices with the primary goal of promoting successful adoptions. The new shelter would also provide a venue for community education and engagement which could further increase adoptions and allow for additional revenue generating programs.
The Davis City Council recently formed an animal services/contract subcommittee. As an initial step, this committee will meet with the County’s animal shelter ad hoc committee to develop a common understanding on the background of developing a new animal shelter and determine the next steps. The Cities of Winters, West Sacramento, and Woodland will be kept informed on the outcomes of these meetings and will have the opportunity to participate in them should they choose to do so.
The development of a new animal shelter through the governance of a JPA provides the best opportunity to implement the programs which could reduce shelter operations and maintenance costs. The JPA could initially be formed with interested jurisdictions participating. The design of the new animal shelter would be based on the needs of the participating jurisdictions. For the jurisdictions which choose not to participate, they could continue utilizing animal services provided by the Sheriff’s Office until such time as the JPA commences operations. At that time, these jurisdictions would need to either provide for their own animal services, contract with a surrounding county agency, or petition to join the JPA, provided the JPA is able to accommodate new members.
By forming a JPA for development and operations of a new animal shelter, the jurisdictions would gain control over decisions affecting animal services through representation on the JPA board. The JPA would have the ability to ensure more fixed costs, and would also be able to consider alternate cost allocation models that ensure an equitable distribution of costs among the jurisdictions.
Yolo County Animal Services Governance Study, LAFCO/KSMP, 2013: 22, Attachment D
Yolo County Animal Services Study, Animal Protection League, August 2012: 6
Yolo County Animal Services Governance Study, LAFCo/KSMP, September 2013: 71, Attachment D