Imperial County searches for animal control solution

Gary Wyatt answered questions from the board concerning the MOU
Gary Wyatt answered questions from the board concerning the MOU

EL CENTRO – Gary Wyatt, Director of Intergovernmental Relations, spoke before the board of supervisors about the progress the county has made concerning animal shelters.


In 2008, the late El Centro veterinarian, Dr. Thompson, hosted, through the county, an “Animal Summit” to discuss the needs of animal control and shelter.


The existing shelter, LuLu Bells, was found to be horribly lacking due to a shortage of funds and volunteer help.


Wyatt, as county lead, has gathered different agencies together in a non-binding pact that is open to anyone who chooses to join and tackle the need for animal shelters in the valley.


Robin Hodgkin, Imperial County Health Director, told the board that, “the culture toward animals is starting to change. The tolerance toward substandard conditions is disappearing.”


Options from the all-valley steering committee were either a joint central shelter or several smaller ones situated throughout the valley.


Before, the cities were not willing to neither lose control of their animal control personnel nor pay the county for an animal shelter.


With the work Wyatt is doing, the cities have a say in how the new ordinances will be written. Wyatt said, “Everyone is agreed to have the ordinances and codes uniform as possible, so what is illegal in one city is also illegal in another and in the county.”


Hodgkin said that animal shelters were highly regulated by state and federal laws with technicalities that had to be met. Considering the scope of work a shelter now requires, the group chose Animal Arts, a premiere consulting group for animal shelters.


According to Hodgkin, the funding will consist of revenue from fines, fees, perhaps property tax or a sales tax. “The community must fund animal shelters. As the community is growing, so is the homeless animal population.”


Rosanna Bayon Moore, Brawley City Manager, said Brawley pays approximately $50,000 annually to the Human Society for sheltering stray dogs picked up in the city.


“Our animal control officer makes several trips to the Humane Society per day. Most of our pick-ups are retrieved,” Moore said. If they aren’t claimed, Moore said, “then they are accessed for adoptability.”


Moore is also on the county-wide steering committee, she chairs the finance committee, tasked with reaching out to the local population through research and polling on how they want to fund the animal control problem in the county.


“There is a large need in our county to deal with the animal population. We need to serve the demands of the people either through incremental approaches or a valley wide solution,” Moore added.

The board voted to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which lists the county as the lead agency and defined the structure of the committee and its functions.

The planning will remain open to all parties who chose to join, whether an individual, a non-profit, a government entity or a business. There are no financial or binding agreements in the MOU.