Against city staff recommendation, Mission City Council approved the renewal of animal control interlocal agreements for the cities of Alton, Granjeno and Palmview. The reason for the recommendation was because staff had concerns about the overcapacity at the City of Mission Animal Shelter.
When asked how often the 59 kennels at the city facility fill up, employee Aaron Ochoa said, “all the time, usually daily.”
“Depending on if it’s during the week and we reach maximum capacity and we can’t take anymore, we’ll just wait until next week when they get taken by a rescue,” Ochoa said.
Although cats and dogs are born year-round, the spring and summer months are known as kitten and puppy season — when shelters often get pushed to their extent. Rescue organizations can still take animals out of overwhelmed facilities to help get them adopted, but there is still a waiting period.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Assistant City Manager Aida Lerma said they saw an increase in stray and unwanted or owner-surrendered animals. And due to the interlocal agreements, animals in the city shelter come from not only Mission but Alton, Granjeno and Palmview as well.
“While rescues remain a vital component to our operations, COVID has hindered these actions or these efforts and those of transporting these animals out of the shelter quicker,” Lerma said at the March 28 Mission City Council meeting. “We are still under construction of the new offices and warehouse, as well as making repairs to the shelter and reviewing the overall operations of the animal control services. Staff recommendation is not to review the agreements at this time and to reevaluate in 6 months.”
After discussion in both open and executive sessions, Mission City Council ultimately approved the renewal of animal control interlocal agreements. Although the approval was unanimous, the item initially left the board divided. Councilmembers Beto Vela and Ruben Plata were in favor of the staff recommendation, while Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Ortega openly said she was against it.
“I feel that this has already been in the plan for quite a number of years,” Ortega said. “For us to tell these local cities there is no other municipality close by here that’s going to be able to do this, and Palm Valley does charge quite a bit.”
With council approval, the city will set up meetings to renew the agreements in the coming weeks. Legal office is working on drafting documents to include a new service fee of $200 per animal. Previously, there was a $70 fee for animal control services, and those funds would go into Mission’s general fund. But the city council proposed the monies collected from the new $200 fee go directly back to the shelter. Within the next 30 days, City Attorney Gus Martinez said he hopes to have renewals ready.
Although new agreements do not solve the overflow problem, the city is looking to expand a number of operations to combat the issue.
“We’re working with a citizens group, implementing a volunteer program and expanding our rescue and our transport,” Lerma said. “And hopefully with the increase of those services… we’ll be able to move the animals quicker.”