s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 5 of 15 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read 10 of 15 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
Ooops! You're out of free articles. Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading all of our products and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?

The next chapter in Healdsburg's effort to provide quality care for stray dogs and cats debuts today when two nonprofit organizations from outside the city officially grab the leash of animal control and sheltering services.

The Sonoma Humane Society and Petaluma Animal Services Foundation are taking over following the demise of the city's independently run Healdsburg Animal Shelter last summer.

The unique collaboration is both a test of the city's decision to spend more than double what it has in the past on animal services and the ability of the nonprofit groups to deliver. The shift comes amid uncertainty for the long-term future of animal care in Healdsburg, including the fate of an unfinished shelter that is the subject of a lawsuit.

The new partnership means Healdsburg residents once again can surrender or adopt animals, be reunited with lost animals and pay for licensing without having to travel outside the city. They also can call on an animal control officer for help.

For those reasons, tail-wagging optimism is anticipated at Tuesday's hand-off ceremony at what is being dubbed the Healdsburg Center, on the property of the unfinished shelter off Westside Road.

"People are very excited to have a new animal control agency come to town. It's just a wait-and-see," said Natalee Tappin, owner of the Healdsburg Dog House.

The Healdsburg City Council in November approved a $235,000 annual contract for the two nonprofits to handle animal sheltering and control. In fiscal year 2011-2012, prior to the shelter ceasing operations, the city alloted $114,000 for animal services.

Healdsburg Mayor Jim Wood acknowledged Monday that the city is spending "significantly more" on animal services. He said the council agreed to the amount "because the community values the services so much."

Under the terms of the deal, the Humane Society is operating a day-use shelter and mobile adoption unit out of two trailers on the property of the unfinished shelter. The services will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sundays.

Animals will be transported back and forth to the Humane Society's main facility on Highway 12 near Sebastopol, executive director Kiska Icard said. She said the agency is exploring whether to keep cats in Healdsburg overnight because of research showing that felines don't travel well.

Icard said the situation is "not the ideal" of having a fixed shelter in place. But she said the arrangement fulfills Healdsburg's basic need for a place where citizens can take found or unwanted animals without leaving town.

"The real benefit to the animal is tapping into all the resources the Sonoma Humane Society has to offer," Icard said.

The agency has been the primary provider of animal care for Sebastopol for eight years. Icard said the money from the Healdsburg contract likely won't cover all of the Humane Society's expenses to provide the added service, and that as a result, she'll be making appeals for donations. She said the agency also is shutting down its fee-based boarding service to provide more intake space.

Petaluma Animal Services Foundation, which is managing field services as part of the contract, will staff an animal control officer in Healdsburg from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. An officer also will be available after-hours and on weekends on an on-call basis to handle emergencies, said Jeff Charter, executive director of the Petaluma agency.

Animal control officers typically handle strays and vicious, injured or unwanted animals. Charter said the Petaluma agency employs two officers and is in the process of training a third. The three will be used on a rotating basis in Healdsburg.

Charter said the two non-profits emphasize compassionate care. Both the Petaluma shelter and Humane Society report that 97 percent of animals brought to the facilities make it out alive.

"We don't come at things from an enforcement, authoritarian point of view," Charter said. "We come at it from, 'How can we help people?'<TH>"

Icard said costs for services at the Healdsburg center will be the same as at the Humane Society. The cost to adopt dogs ranges from $280 for puppies (which includes six weeks of training classes) to $100 for dogs older than seven. Adoption fees for felines range from $155 for kittens to $85 for older cats.

One difference is that Healdsburg residents won't have to pay the $15 licensing fee for the first year, Icard said.

The new Healdsburg Center can be reached at 280-9632.

Wood called the services offered by the non-profits a "step in the right direction." But he said Healdsburg's goal is to have a permanent shelter.

The Healdsburg Animal Shelter shut its doors last June and dismissed its nine-employee workforce, citing a lack of money and a fruitless appeal for community funding.

The demise of the organization after more than 50 years followed a tumultuous period with rapid turnover of executive directors, infighting on the board of directors and inability to finish the $3.5 million shelter, which became the object of a lawsuit alleging construction and design deficiencies. A May 2 trial date has been scheduled.

The incomplete shelter, which is across from the cramped 1960 facility next to the city's corporation yard, was financed almost entirely by the estate of the late vintner Rodney Strong and his wife, Charlotte.

"Basically, we'd like to see that building usable as an animal shelter to conform with the very generous intentions of the people who donated the money in the first place," said Bob Wilkie, secretary-treasurer for the board of the Healdsburg Animal Shelter.

He said the contract with the Humane Society and Petaluma foundation for the time being "resurrects and revitalizes" animal care and control services in the city of Healdsburg.

"I think the people of Healdsburg are going to be greatly relieved and pleased when they see how effectively this operation is running," Wilkie said.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.