San Diego Humane Society gets contract approval

San Diego Humane Society gets contract approval
Planning for the change began last year, when the county announced it would no longer provide animal services to six contract cities: Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, San Diego, Santee and Solana Beach. Courtesy photo

REGION — The Carlsbad City Council unanimously agreed to adopt a resolution on April 24 authorizing the City Manager to contract with San Diego Humane Society for animal control services, beginning July 1 of this year. The contract will run 36 months, with two one-year options to renew. The cost for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 will be $941,341, with future costs determined by the number of calls for service, animal intake, and population of new contract cities.

Planning for the change began last year, when the county announced it would no longer provide animal services to six contract cities: Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, San Diego, Santee and Solana Beach.

Public interest in the matter is high. The April 19 budget committee meeting room was packed, with a majority of attendees wearing bright blue Humane Society T-shirts. With speakers limited to one minute each, the comment section lasted over an hour. An additional 48 attendees — 46 in support and two opposed — signed in but chose not to speak.

While the Humane Society received nearly unanimous praise, two groups voiced concerns on contract specifics.

Representatives from Service Employees Union International objected to the contract’s failure to provide comparable pay and benefits packages for displaced county workers, many with years of experience, and cautioned that inexperienced animal control officers would put the public at risk.

Animal welfare advocates and organizations were the second group with concerns. Many belonged to the San Diego Rescue Coalition, a group which provided council members and Humane Society representatives with a list of contract changes needed to assure the city shelter’s high live release rates continue. Most stressed that they support the Humane Society taking over services, but feel changes need to be made to ensure the animals’ best interests.

They pointed out that the 80 percent live release rate required in the contract is significantly lower than the county shelters’ current 86 percent, and expressed concerns over the Humane Society’s willingness to work with rescue groups and to maintain spay and neuter programs.

Councilwoman Georgette Gomez of City Heights was appreciative of the Humane Society’s record and reputation, but expressed disappointment in its lack of response to requests for labor concessions, stating, “It’s important that we do take care of our animals, but it’s also critical that we take care of our workers.”

Gary Weitzman, president of the Humane Society, countered that a study undertaken last year to compare wages and benefits of county and Humane Society employees found them to be comparable, with the exception of the county pension program, with which they could not compete.

Councilman Chris Cate of Mira Mesa addressed possible labor concessions, and also questioned why the live release rate should be set so low. Weitzman stated that the Humane Society has maintained a live release rate of 93 percent or higher for the last five years, and he has no intention of letting that drop. However, to make changes in the contract now, he cautioned, could cause delays and a possible interruption in service.

A Humane Society attorney, David Chidlaw, was more succinct; saying, “If there is a neutrality provision, card check, added to the contract, we don’t have a deal.”

Planned City Council meetings with San Diego Humane Society contract on agenda:

Del Mar – May 7

Encinitas – May 23

San Diego – April 30

Santee – April 25

Solana Beach – May 9

Some dates are tentative and may change.

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