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California City Solutions: Alameda Partners With Volunteer Organization to Save Animal Shelter

May 8, 2014
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries. These entries are also now available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. Alameda’s Friends of the Animal Shelter program was submitted in 2013 for the League Partners Award for Excellence in City-Business Relations award category.
Alameda is a pet-friendly city with an estimated 34,000 household dogs and cats. The city is home to two publicly run large dog parks and a detached park specifically for small dogs. During the past few years, patrons of the dog parks have formed a close knit community, even creating their own volunteer website for the Alameda Small Dog Park. The Great Recession challenged the city’s ability to provide for homeless animals until a volunteer-based nonprofit became responsible for the local shelter.
Alameda residents have been fortunate to have an easily accessible local animal shelter that provides high quality and friendly service. This level of service is made possible by a partnership between Alameda and a local volunteer organization called Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter (FAAS). Since 2009, the partnership has been providing animals a safe, healthy and clean environment while they wait to be placed into a new permanent home or transferred to a rescue group to prevent overcrowding. The shelter also maintains a low euthanasia rate, thanks to the help of local veterinarians and donor funding.
By 2011 the city was forced to find solutions to continue providing its high quality of. Alameda faced a 5 percent budget reduction and was exploring ideas such as outsourcing or privatizing its animal shelter in order to cut back expenses. When news spread, many community members began to voice concerns and strongly opposed.
Pet-committed residents feared that if they were forced to use an out of town shelter, logistics would become a barrier to seeking services leading to  decreased owner surrenders and increased pet abandonment. They were also concerned that dealing with an out of town shelter would be more costly and more stressful for pet owners.
The Alameda Animal Shelter is an integral part of the pet community. To provide quality health care to the animals and maintain the shelter locally, as well as meet the city’s tight budget, an agreement was made for FAAS to assume primary responsibility for Alameda’s Animal Shelter beginning January 2012. The city continues to maintain field operations and work with animal control assistants for enforcement and citations and partnership saves the city more than $600,000 annually.
Since FAAS took over responsibility for the Alameda Animal Shelter the volunteer organization has:
  • Reduced operating costs and raised more than $300,000 annually to keep the shelter operating at a lower cost to the city;
  • Increased adoptions by 21 percent with the placement of 455 dogs, cats and other pets into loving, new homes;
  • Increased mobile adoptions sites throughout Alameda by 500 percent;
  • Initiated a microchip program to make it easier for citizens to locate their lost pets;
  • Introduced life-saving medical care programs, such as the Angel Fund, which provides funds for sick and injured animals at the shelter, and partnership with local veterinary hospitals;
  • Improved the shelter stay for abandoned pets with greater enrichment activities, including long walks and toys for dogs, and socializing with cats and rabbits;
  • Boosted the volunteer program by 200 percent to now include more than 150 dedicated volunteers who have donated more than 5,000 hours in 2012 to give the animals the best care possible; and
  • Established a Pet Loss Support Group for community members who have lost pets.

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