City officials, who had criticized the county animal control program and threatened to stop using its services, this week came to an agreement with the agency.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a new one-year, $61,567 contract with the county starting in July that includes several new services for the city.
"The agreement is really a renewal of the existing contract we've had since incorporation, but with a localization of services," said John W. Donlevy Jr., the assistant to the city manager. Among the new concessions made to the city are a pet adoption day run by the county and an amnesty day when all pets could be licensed without late fines.
But the major thrust of the new services, as originally recommended by the city's Animal Control Advisory Committee, is to bring the county program to Dana Point whenever possible.
"The greatest concern of the committee has been the location of the current animal shelter, which is 38 miles away in the city of Orange," Donlevy said. "That's very inconvenient for people in Dana Point."
Under the new plan, all licensed stray dogs and cats found in South County now will be delivered to their owners by county animal control officers. If the owners are not at home, the officers will leave a note on the door and arrangements can be made to deliver the animal on the county truck's next trip to Dana Point, Donlevy said.
An impound fee of $25 will still be assessed, however, as will a delivery fee of "probably $15," if the county has to return the animal to Dana Point, Donlevy said.
The city has not abandoned a study underway to examine expanding San Clemente's city-operated animal shelter to also service Dana Point, Donlevy said. San Clemente runs a "pro-life" shelter that does not euthanize animals, and several Dana Point residents have lobbied the City Council to form a regional operation.
A spokesman from the local Animal Rights Foundation (ARF) told the council that, despite the new agreement with the county, its supporters still plan to pursue an agreement with the city of San Clemente. San Clemente city officials already have launched a feasibility study on the expansion idea.