The Hollister City Council passed a resolution Jan. 22 to put $5,000 toward animal spay and neuter services for two days in March. The money is expected to come out of the city manager’s professional services budget.
Services will be provided by the SNIP Bus, which in addition to spaying and neutering provides shots, pain medication, nail clipping and more.
Additionally, Hollister Police Animal Care and Services is expected to offer limited, low-cost spay and neutering services in the coming months.
“We’ve been working on a program that will open Feb. 8 where you’ll be able to schedule appointments at the Hollister Animal Control shelter,” Police Chief David Westrick said at the Jan. 22 council meeting.
Vice Mayor Marty Richman called the SNIP program a good “bargain-basement” service and asked if the city had looked into the cost of “farming out” spay and neutering.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez mentioned the city had approved $30,000 last year for spay and neuter services and said he wanted to make sure the money was being used. He wanted assurance that something was being done, including for feral cats.
City Manager Bill Avera said his intention was to get familiar with the SNIP program, and that a resolution would probably come before the City Council if it was determined that using SNIP was the most cost effective method to pay for the services.
Avera said that none of the $30,000 has been spent so far, and Councilwoman Carol Lenoir asked why. Avera replied that Westrick was working on a possible permanent solution to the current voucher program. If the council wanted to go forward with it, Avera said, he wanted to make sure animal control still had the $30,000, which could go toward paying back the $5,000 for the new service. Westrick stepped in and told Lenoir the voucher program would be phased out for a permanent solution.
Councilwoman Honor Spencer said she was concerned about feral cats. She said they needed to be neutered or spayed and released, not euthanized, which is what animal control does with feral cats. Councilman Rolan Resendiz said there are no affordable services in the city and that people have donated money so SNIP could provide an extra day of service for feral cats when the Snip Bus was in town in December.
Eight animal advocates pleaded for the local feral cat population during public comment, with one holding up a photo of an emaciated cat. They asked the city to start spending the $30,000 immediately.
Chief Westrick said he had taken 23 cats to Pet Friends, adding that he would be a hypocrite if he didn’t admit there was a problem.
Lenoir asked the mayor to reach out to county government about sharing the cost.
“This is not just a city problem,” Velazquez said in agreement with Lenoir. “It’s a county, city, community problem.”
Hollister has been sensitive toward animal services since community outcry following the 2017 Grand Jury Report, which revealed animal control euthanized an average of 118 animals a month. Most dogs are euthanized for behavior problems, while all feral cats are euthanized. The Grand Jury found the Animal Control department had a high staff turnover rate because of the stress of euthanizing the animals.
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