Since Brian Moss and Calaveras County’s Environmental Management Agency took over responsibility for the Animal Services Department from the Sheriff’s Office last October, there has been a “huge, huge difference.”

That’s according to Calaveras Humane Society Volunteer Debbie Bowford – one of 80 volunteers – who described an improved working environment during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting and characterized the department’s new staff, a shelter assistant and office technician, as “top notch.”

Moss provided an upbeat presentation that described a department now working as a cohesive “unit.” The department is being restructured as a public-private partnership between the Environmental Management Agency and the county’s Humane Society.

“This is the future of Animal Services for Calaveras County,” said Moss. “This is a huge step.”

The “future” involves a potential new 17,000-square-foot building complete with formal adoption viewing areas and space to house large animals next to the new county courthouse and jail. For the past few years, talk surrounding where the badly needed new facility should be put jumped from place to place, but in Tuesday’s presentation, Moss recommended that supervisors lend their support to the new site.

According to Moss, the county would be “getting the biggest bang for its buck” if it gives the go ahead to build on the property. He cited ease of access – the new building would be just off newly constructed Jeff Tuttle Drive – the fact that all utilities have been recently installed and would be easily accessible, minimal grading required for construction and the cost savings involved in not having to purchase property outright.

Supervisors were largely in support of the department’s recommendation and applauded an upgraded facility that would end the era of “Band-Aid” solutions that have been applied to the department in years past, treating “symptoms” but largely ignoring the fact that the current Animal Services building is “old and archaic.”

“We’re out of Band-Aids,” said District 4 Supervisor Debbie Ponte. “Personally, I would like to see this project move forward.”

“The timing is critical … and in our favor,” said District 5 Supervisor Darren Spellman. “This would not have been possible just two years ago. I’m very pleased with where this is going.”

The board’s unanimous support doesn’t guarantee project approval as no formal vote was taken. Both the Environmental Management Agency and the Humane Society still need to work out specifics regarding the details of the public-private partnership and how it will relate to management and ownership of the property and facility before presenting the project to the board for a vote. Final costs are also yet to be determined.

While most of the session’s discussion centered on talk of the new facility, Animal Services is also considering a “minor” increase in the county’s animal licensing fee from $12 to $15 for a dog that has been spayed or neutered to help increase the department’s recovered costs which “are nothing close to 100 percent.”

Moss believes that the $3 increase wouldn’t discourage either licensing or adoptions.

“That’s the last thing we want to do, discourage adoptions,” he said – for perspective, the current licensing fee for one year in Tuolumne County is $18.50 and $10 in Amador County.

The department will also will look at hiring a permanent Animal Services manager later this month. From 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 20, the department will hold a rabies clinic and will vaccinate both dogs and cats for $6. For more information, contact the Animal Services Department at 754-6509.

Contact Kristine Williams at kristine@calaverasenterprise.com.

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