Paso Robles, Atascadero consider an animal shelter for the North County

Lester, left, and Liam were adopted from Woods Humane Society North County in Atascadero, the region’s only animal shelter.
Lester, left, and Liam were adopted from Woods Humane Society North County in Atascadero, the region’s only animal shelter. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Atascadero and Paso Robles leaders are looking into cheaper ways to care for abandoned and stray animals, which may involve building a new North County shelter instead of contributing funds toward a new countywide facility.

Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin appeared at Tuesday’s San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting to discuss a new $13.7 million Animal Services Shelter that’s been in the works for about two years. The board decided two years ago that the county’s current shelter — located on Oklahoma Avenue, just off Highway 1 — is old and needs to be replaced.

The new facility is planned for a site adjacent to the current one, on a property near Woods Humane Society. All seven county cities signed onto an agreement that stipulated how much each community would pay to construct the shelter, which the county approved in February.

But this month, Paso Robles and Atascadero leaders began seriously considering a plan that would allow the cities to construct their own regional shelter at a lower cost. Currently, Woods’ North County facility in Atascadero is the only animal shelter over the Grade, and it only takes cats.

Martin discussed that idea on behalf of both cities at the Tuesday meeting, where he told supervisors the two communities want to take six months to look into alternative options.

“Our constituents have reached out to us and said, ‘This is an awful lot of money — is there any other way we could do this?’” he said.

Atascadero would be responsible for about $1.7 million of the new shelter’s costs and Paso Robles for about $2.2 million, based on the cities’ projected use, according to the agreement. The cities would pay for their shares over the course of the next 25 years, according to a Paso Robles city staff report.

Fifteen dogs and 10 cats displaced by Hurricane Harvey arrived at Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo County, California, on Thursday, September 14, 2017.

Supervisor Lynn Compton said she understood Martin’s desire to look into potentially cheaper options, but said she wasn’t sure why the cities waited years into planning the new shelter to do so.

“The longer they wait, the worse it is for us all,” she said.

Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Bruce Gibson also pointed out city leaders have some “off-ramps,” or are able to opt out of the agreement. According to the agreement, if leaders choose to opt out before Oct. 31, the cities won’t be responsible for costs. But after that date, they may have to pay to get out of the contract.

The county timeline calls for opening the new shelter in spring 2020.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27

Toby, a therapy dog who died in October, frolics with another dog during class. His owner, Daniel Freeman, a Morro Bay High School teacher, is raising money to train a new therapy dog.

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