Not quite 9 lives at the Hollister Animal Shelter

Anna Patterson hold one of the kittens the shelter had up for adoption. Photo by Nick Lovejoy

About one of every two animals that arrives at the Hollister Animal Shelter is euthanized.
The shelter, which is funded by the city, falls under the control of the police department and has a 52 percent euthanasia rate. That is significantly higher than at least two neighboring shelters, according to records obtained by the paper.
Most of the euthanized animals were cats. In 2015, about 1,734 cats came into the shelter and about 71 percent of them were euthanized due to being feral, semi-feral, or for unadoptable behavior, according to numbers provided by Animal Control Supervisor Julie Carreiro, in response to record requests from the Free Lance.
“The bottom line is people need to start spaying and neutering their pets,” Carreiro said. “I think the big thing is, people aren’t spaying and neutering and then the cats turn feral.”
Adding to the problem, there aren’t many affordable options to spay or neuter a cat in San Benito County. Redwood City-based Pets in Need, which takes pets from the shelter once a week, offered spay and neuter services to residents for free for about one and a half years until funding ran out, Carreiro said. Now, the shelter refers people who need to spay or neuter a pet to the Hollister-based Pet Friends or the Marina-based Who Saved Who Spay Neuter Clinic, she said. Pet Friends’ low-cost spay and neuter clinic is open just one day a week on Thursdays, according to its website.
The demand for a feral cat in Hollister is much less than the one for a friendly cat. A lot of the cats brought to the shelter aren’t true ferals, but do have behavioral issues, she said.
“Sometimes you can handle a cat but it tries to bite you and scratch you so people don’t want them,” she said.
The shelter accepted 2,933 animals in 2015, according to a records request from the newspaper. That same year, 886 animals were euthanized due to being feral or showing aggression; 339 were euthanized due to health, disease or medical reasons or at an owner’s request; and 288 were euthanized due to space issues or for being too young or old, according to the records request.
The shelter has made efforts over the years to attract the public for adoptions, including opening on Saturdays for about a year and a half in 2009 and 2010 before changing to the current noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday hours to attract more adopters; moving to a new site on South Street about four years ago; and planning for the debut of an adoption truck that will bring pets to the public this spring, according to staff.
“Have you ever driven downtown on Saturday? It’s pretty quiet and that’s kind of what happened here,” Carreiro said, of the shelter’s stint of weekend hours. “The right thing to do is to be open six days a week, but the staff doesn’t allow for it.”
The city’s animal control budget of $449,563 funds the shelter as well as animal control activities, according to an email from Brett Miller, the director of administrative services and assistant city manager. The money funds an animal control supervisor with a salary of $80,005; two animal control officers paid $50,850 each; and 15 percent of a police captain’s $132,049 salary, which is $19,807, according to Miller.
The shelter’s website explains the site is subject to closure for emergency calls. In addition to shelter duties, animal control officers also do field-service calls; pet code enforcement; and emergency after-hour calls, Carreiro explained.
About 34 miles northwest, in rural San Martin, the Santa Clara County Animal Shelter took in a similar number of animals with 3,363 dogs and cats arriving in 2015, but just 9 percent were euthanized. That euthanasia number includes owner-requested euthanasia for sick dogs and cats at the end of their lives, but would be about 6 percent if those were excluded.
Lisa Jenkins, the interim program manager of animal care and control, said the shelter partners with a nonprofit organization to run a program where feral cats get fixed, vaccinated and microchipped, before they are returned to where they were caught. The feline’s ear tip is cut so that if the cat is trapped again, people can see it has already been fixed, Jenkins said.
“We turn the cats that are feral over to the organization called Town Cats, and they have a release program so they return the cats to the location in which they were trapped,” she said.
When it’s a life or death situation, the cat gets held onto longer. That can make the cost of caring for them as much or more than fixing and sending them out again, Jenkins said.
“The cost to neuter a cat is not that much because we do it in house,” she said. “We have a vet that does it.”
There is no adoption fee for a barn cat, since the shelter sees it as a service the people are providing to them by being willing to take the animal, Jenkins said.
About 30 miles southwest of Hollister, in Salinas, Monterey County Animal Services, which runs a public animal shelter, takes in 2,525 animals and has a euthanasia rate of about 33 percent, according to numbers shared by Operations Manager Mike Richards, in response to a records request from the newspaper. That euthanasia number includes owner-requested euthanasia, but would be about 30 percent if those were excluded.
The Hollister Animal Shelter does make special efforts to get pets adopted. In November, it offered cat adoptions for $25, Carreiro said. It’s planning a second month like that in the future, she told the Free Lance.
The shelter also works with at least 30 rescue groups, including as many as 100 breed-specific ones, the animal control supervisor said.
“If they’re adoptable we’ll hold them here as long as we can,” she said.
Cats at the Hollister Animal Shelter in 2015
1,734 cats came in
1,229 cats were euthanized due to being feral, semi-feral, or for unadoptable behavior
Hollister euthanasia rates, by year
2015: 52 percent (open weekdays)
2014: 52 percent (open weekdays)
2010: 62 percent (open Saturdays)
2009: 57 percent (open Saturdays)
Euthanasia rates, by shelter, for 2015
Hollister Animal Shelter: 52 percent*
Santa Clara County Animal Shelter: 9 percent*
Monterey County Animal Services: 33 percent*
*includes owner-requested euthanasia

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