Kill animals to save money on animal shelter? That’s not our plan, Paso mayor says

Kittens at the San Luis Obispo County Animal Services shelter.
Kittens at the San Luis Obispo County Animal Services shelter.

When my wife and I moved into our first house in Paso Robles, we were adopted by a cat. The beautiful black-and-white feline was sitting on the back porch of our new home, looking for all the world like a welcoming gift. We dubbed him “Freebie.”

I grew up a “dog person.” My wife had never had a pet. Nevertheless, Freebie became a part of our lives for nearly 20 years. During that time he totally used all of his “nine lives.” He got hurt, lost, and wandered into the most interesting places. Always he bounced back, even when we thought we had seen the end of him.

Freebie was aloof, only occasionally blessing us with a snuggle and a purr, until late in his life when he would seek us out. By then he was drawn and thin and in need of warmth and comfort in our laps. Even then he would occasionally show a burst of energy and bound up and down the stairs. One of my daughters once asked how such an old cat could sometimes do that. I told her that no matter how old Freebie got, deep inside there would still be a little piece of him that was still a kitten.

The day came, as it always does, when the kitten inside Freebie could play no more. He was so old and so sick and so unhappy and we had to do the hard thing, but the right thing. We had to say goodbye.

I say all of this for the people who seem to think I, or anyone on the Paso Robles City Council, have no feelings for animals.

The county’s position is that one centralized animal shelter will serve the entire county best. That approach will cost the people of Paso Robles approximately $485,000 per year. That’s $485,000 that will have to come out of roads, public safety and other community services. It seems the right thing that we at least look at other ways to provide caring and humane animal control services before shifting those funds. We and other cities are working to see if several smaller, community-based shelters might be more cost-effective.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t care for animals or that we want to kill animals.

The city of Paso Robles does not intend to kill animals to save money. We have asked for a delay in planning for a new, centralized, animal shelter to see if we can find a better, less expensive way. The county Board of Supervisors said no. We will try to complete our search for alternatives by the Oct. 31 deadline. If we can’t finish by then, or if we do and don’t find a humane, cost-effective alternative, we will be forced to move resources from existing services to pay for the county’s expensive plan.

Steven W. Martin is mayor of Paso Robles.

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