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Nonprofit Priceless Pets sniffs out locations for Costa Mesa animal shelter

Last week I wrote about how Dr. Anthony Rizk, owner of Newport Center Animal Hospital and Pet Hotel Suites, 1333 Avocado Ave., had entered into a six-month contract with the city of Costa Mesa for medical services to treat strays. The agreement is a temporary animal shelter solution since the contract with the Orange County Humane Society (OCHS) expired Jan 21.

Readers asked me for more information on the city's animal adoption process.

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Due to city insurance and liability issues still being sorted, adoptions can't currently be done by Rizk's hospital (though he'd prefer to do them).

So this is how it works now: Once the seven-day hold is up, and an animal is deemed medically fit by Rizk, transportation is arranged to the nonprofit Priceless Pets Rescue, which has adoption locations in Chino Hills and Claremont.

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Costa Mesa has a non-exclusive agreement with the no-kill shelter, paying it a $25 per animal transfer fee, providing the animals are spayed or neutered and micro-chipped.

Locations aren't convenient to Costa Mesa, but Priceless Pets, which was founded in 2007, has a stellar reputation and is zeroing on a local location, according to board member Lynette Brown.

After reading my Dec. 18 column about Costa Mesa's need for a temporary solution for strays, Brown said she called Councilman John Stephens, offering her organization's help.

Stephens put her in touch with City Manager Tom Hatch.

Coincidentally, Priceless Pets was already scouting an O.C. location in Huntington Beach.

That focus has now changed to Costa Mesa.

"I want to reassure people we want to get as close to the community as possible," Brown said. "We are all about the animals."

She hopes to have a lease shortly.

Depending on how long the city permitting process takes, Brown estimates things could be up and running in three to four months.

I'd like to see the city's Animal Services Committee and City Council make approvals a priority, continuing to fast-track plans to stabilize animal control.

In the meantime, Brown tells me she's doing all she can to streamline adoptions for Costa Mesa's strays and has reached out to partners at PetSmart Charities.

Plans are underway to work with the Costa Mesa store, 620 W 17th St., and its mobile adoption program.

On Monday, Brown toured Newport Center Animal Hospital and Pet Hotel Suites with Rizk.

"I was very impressed," she said.

Just missing Brown, I toured the facility that day with my dogs Rocco and Stasha.

We ran into Justin Martin, Parks and Community Services director, visiting the facility with city staffers as part of a new, weekly routine.

Martin and his team spoke with hospital staff regarding the animals on site, "photographing and videoing the impounded animals so they can be tracked and promoted for adoption on the city's website," he told me, offering links to my readers.

Here's a list of impounded animals: costamesaca.gov/impoundedanimals

And here's a list of adoptable animals: costamesaca.gov/adoptableanimals

Martin's department will work closely with Animal Control on assisting impounded animals and overseeing the current contractors for animal shelter and adoption services.

They'll also serve as liaisons to the newly appointed Animal Services Committee, which will assist in making recommendations to the City Council regarding long-term solutions/options for improving animal services.

Committee member Christie McDaniel has been doing her homework in anticipation of the panel setting its first meeting.

She's talked with my friend Tim Stoaks, president of the non-profit Friends of Newport Beach Animal Shelter, in gathering information for Costa Mesa to form its own non-profit resident support group in the future.

Stoaks said he's happy to share his experience and mentioned Costa Mesa in a recent update letter to FONB AS supporters:

"The City of Costa Mesa, after a long search, has contracted with a veterinarian in Newport Beach to handle Costa Mesa's animal shelter needs," Stoaks wrote. "FONBAS, as a group whose mission is to help every animal find a good home, is pleased Costa Mesa has found, at least temporarily, a solution to their shelter needs. Though the two city's shelters are unrelated, we are all working hard for the benefit of all animals."

In the same newsletter, the organization announced plans to start a capital campaign to build a new Newport Beach Animal Shelter, kicking off fundraising with "The Fur Ball Gala," which I've been asked to co-chair.

I think it's smart for the budding Costa Mesa Animal Services committee to use FONBAS as an example of what can be accomplished with a public private government partnership.

Animals don't recognize city borders, so it's up to us to see both cities have state-of-the-art facilities to ensure their safety and care.

BARBARA VENEZIA is an opinion columnist writing political and social commentary since 2007. She can be reached at bvontv1@gmail.com

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