Stray dogs and road kill are the latest political pawns of eastern Ventura County communities that claim they are often ignored by county government services.
Thousand Oaks officials gave up on Ventura County animal control services two years ago, choosing instead to contract with Los Angeles County. They said the new service saved the city $116,000--or 68% of its animal control budget--last year.
Now Oak Park is considering doing the same, and Los Angeles County Animal Control Director Bruce Richards said it's about time.
He said residents of the tiny community have been lying to his Agoura Hills shelter about finding squashed rabbits and wayward dogs in neighboring Los Angeles County.
"Just last week a woman came in and dropped off two cats that she said she found in Agoura Hills," Richards said. "But during the emotional moment when she released the cats to the kennel out back, she let it leak that the cats were from Oak Park."
But for Oak Park, the convenience and service from Los Angeles County would come with a price. A contract with a community of Oak Park's size would cost about $30,000, Los Angeles County officials say.
That compares to the $1,000 that Oak Park residents now contribute to Ventura County animal control through their property taxes. The sum, however, provides no licensing or animal patrols.
The $29,000 difference could be made up with a rigorous door-to-door licensing campaign or by increasing fees in the service district that manages Oak Park. The community's Municipal Advisory Council will consider the contract and hear testimony from residents at its July meeting.
Kathy Jenks, who directs Ventura County's Animal Relations Department, said residents' frustration with the county department is understandable because the unincorporated areas of the county, such as Oak Park, have been without most animal control services for three years.
That's when the county cut all but state-mandated services such as rabies control.
"Right now Oak Park leaving us would not have any effect at all," Jenks said.
The idea of contracting services began with Supervisor Frank Schillo, who led the campaign for Thousand Oaks to contract when he was a councilman. Thousand Oaks paid Los Angeles County about $54,000 last year for animal control services.
"The public doesn't care whether they're from Los Angeles County or Ventura County as long as they get the service," Schillo said. Thousand Oaks officials said the service provided by Los Angeles County is quicker and more efficient.
But Jenks said supervisors should look at using the money slated for a contract with Los Angeles County to bolster Ventura County services.
"If there's money available for Oak Park, it would be nice to see similar money spent on El Rio, the beaches, Meiners Oaks, and other unincorporated areas. Oak Park isn't the only unincorporated area that's suffering," she said.
Jenks said extra patrol officers could recoup nearly $36,000 in licensing fees from Oak Park, enough to cover the contract with Los Angeles County.