August 11, 2005
Friends of Animals happy that council will look for closer animal control site
by Mary Frances Gurton
Members of Culver City's Friends of Animals were appeased Monday when the City Council promised to look into methods for getting local animal control services faster and closer to home.
"I find it disheartening to hear the same complaints tonight that we heard two years ago," said Councilman Alan Corlin, "and to have the animal control people present again saying they know nothing about it."
After hearing complaints from residents and input from county animal control officials, the council unanimously passed a motion agreeing to, among other things, discuss with the City of Santa Monica about possibly contracting with them rather than Los Angeles County Animal Control's faraway Carson center for local services.
They also said they would look into the possibility of setting up a telephone hotline service that would ensure faster response times.
Culver City Friends of Animals has repeatedly requested that the city set up its own animal service center.
"There is no response from [the Carson animal control center]," said Dena Snedder, who also read a long list of services the center is obligated to but never undertakes. "You can violate animal laws in Culver City and not be cited. What is it going to take for the city to get local control to protect us?"
Other residents described dead animals left for days after being reported despite the agreed upon pick-up time being "within an hour."
Laura Stewart described a large, hungry dog who roamed freely around her neighborhood for over three weeks with literally no response from the Carson center, including answering the phone.
Other residents also said when they called the center the phone rang with no answer.
"We pay the highest fees of any city in the area," said Stewart, "but we receive the poorest services."
Joining those who complained about the center's lack of phone response, Corlin, who initiated the motion, said, "I called the Carson animal center two or three times this week and got no answer."
When questioned by Corlin about various expectations regarding dead or dangerous animals and call and response times, officials from the county control center who were invited to offer information regarding the complaints were of little help.
"The center is pulling together a call dispatch center that might help with the phone problems," said one official. "I was not aware of the problems being discussed here. I will look into them."
Neither officer offered explanations nor solutions.
The main obstacle to the creation of a city-run animal control center was funding, according to officials.
Chief Administrative Officer Jerry Fulwood explained that the contract currently costs the city $62,000, a surprising decline from last year's cost of $74,000.
Fees would have to be tripled, he said, to meet the expected cost of up to $300,000 for creating a new center, which would include hiring at least one animal control official and setting up an animal control facility.
Carol Gross, who paused when organization members became audibly disgruntled regarding her comments, echoed Fulwood's cautionary financial comments.
She said, "Like anybody in the audience, the city only has a finite amount of money to make choices with."
City staff will return to the council within 90 days regarding their findings.