In a staff report to the May 23 council meeting, the Seal Beach Police recommended creating an in-house animal control service.
The City Council unanimously approved the recommendation.
Senior Community Service Officers and Police Aides would be cross-trained to provide animal control services, according to the staff report that made the recommendation.
According to Seal Beach Police Chief Phil Gonshak, the program would be implemented immediately if the council approved the recommendation. He suggested it would be prudent to keep the contract with Long Beach Animal Care Services for a couple of months.
The council looked at three options for animal control services: amending the existing contract with Long Beach (which expires at the end of the month), making a new contract with the Westminster Police Department or setting up an in-house animal control service.
The public had no comments, but following a detailed presentation from the SBPD, the council discussed the issue at length before voting for the staff’s recommendation.
According to the staff report, Long Beach Animal Care Services has told Seal Beach that the cost of their contract will increase in the next coming years.
District Two Councilman Thomas Moore asked if there was a risk that Westminster’s rates would increase if the city approved the Westminster proposal.
“Yes, I would say there is a risk,” said SBPD Capt. Michael Henderson, who presented the staff report to the council. He said Long Beach had explained that the costs of animal care are rising. According to Henderson, in terms of a no-kill shelter—which would be the city’s goal—there would be a cost to preserving animals’ lives rather than euthanizing them.
Part of setting up the program would be finding a no-kill shelter for pets (not just dogs and cats).
“Have we gotten a lot of complaints about the Long Beach Animal Control?” Moore asked. He asked how many complaints the city had received.
“I don’t have a specific count of complaints,” Henderson said. He told the council he had a lot of anecdotes about poor response times.
He said that when the SBPD calls for service, Long Beach Animal Care Services will come, but not in as timely a manner as the SBPD would expect.
(Later in the meeting, Chief Gonshak told District Five Councilwoman Sandra Massa-Lavitt that if Seal Beach contacted Long Beach about a dog off the leash, he would guarantee everything in his wallet that it would take them “an inordinate amount of time to respond.)
“Does Long Beach know we’re looking to change?” Moore asked.
Henderson said yes. He said Long Beach had very been cooperative.
Massa-Lavitt was concerned about the no-kill shelter. “Where are we going to find a no-kill shelter that we can rent or pay for services?” she asked.
Henderson said the city would create a request for proposals.
Massa-Lavitt asked about the Seal Beach Animal Care Center.
Henderson said he had spoken with them. Right now, he said, they accept dogs and cats but no other kinds of animals.
Massa-Lavitt indicated she would like to see the Seal Beach non-profit shelter be used.
District Two Councilman Thomas Moore said he was struggling with having three people to work on animal control when the city gets 1-and-a-half calls a day. (That figure came from Henderson’s report of the average calls for animal control service in Seal Beach.)
Henderson said he understood. “Our feeling is that we’ve been underserved by animal control,” he said.
He said one of the standard animal control services is patrolling for dog licenses and that doesn’t occur in Seal Beach.
He said he lived in Los Angeles County and every year, animal control comes by and makes sure his dog has a license.
District One Councilman/Mayor Joe Kalmick said he had seen the local dog population increase to the point where Seal Beach wasn’t getting adequate animal care service from Long Beach.
Later, Moore asked if it would make sense to start with one CSO. Moore said he agreed with brining the program in-house.
According to Chief Gonshak, adding animal control services would increase the level of responsibilities given to a depleted workforce.
Gonshak also said that going with one person for animal control services would not provide the quality of service they would like to provide.
“The City of Seal Beach (City) maintained an in-house Animal Control function through/until 2004, when it was dissolved on a recommendation from a comprehensive Police Services study,” according to the staff report by Capt. Michael Henderson.
“The current contract with the City of Long Beach terminates at the end of the 2021–2022 fiscal year on June 30, 2022,” Henderson wrote.
As reported above, Long Beach has told Seal Beach that the animal control contract will increase. “The current agreement contracts services for $175,840 per year. For FY 2022-23, the rate will increase to $256,000 and for FY 2023-24, the rate is projected to increase to $355,000,” Henderson wrote.
The cost of animal control services apparently exceeds revenues. “Over the last two years, revenues for fines and fees from the City of Long Beach contract averaged $52,063,” Henderson wrote.
The report went on to say that Seal Beach Animal Care Center provides related services (including a place to house stray dogs and cats) for $10,000 a year from the city of Seal Beach.
City staff reached out to Los Angeles, Orange County and the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority about providing animal control services to Seal Beach. They aren’t taking new contracts at this time, according to Henderson’s report.
The report compared the costs of the three proposals over three fiscal years. In 2022-23, for example, the Long Beach Animal Care Services contract would cost $256,000; Westminster would cost $331,929; the in-house Seal Beach service would cost $420,425.04. Costs in 2023-24 would decrease in the Westminster and Seal Beach proposals and increase again in 2024-25, according to Henderson’s report.
Long Beach costs are expected to increase from $254,000 in fiscal year 2022-23 and projected to increase to $$355,000 in fiscal year 2023-24.
“Currently, the City of Westminster has an in-house Animal Control Services Office, managed through the Police Department,” SBPD Capt. Henderson wrote.
Westminster offered a one-year contract with two opportunities to renew.
“The Westminster proposal would provide 40 hours of dedicated patrol and field services between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM, seven days a week. Service would be provided during off-hours on an as-needed basis at an additional cost of $70 per hour,” Henderson wrote.
“Shelter services for the Westminster proposal is provided through the Westminster Adoption Group Services which would accept 25 dogs, 100 cats and 30 exotic animals. Veterinary services are provided,” Henderson wrote.
“The first-year cost of the contract is higher due to the need to purchase a properly outfitted Animal Control vehicle,” Henderson wrote.
Westminster would collect and keep all the animal control service revenue, according to the report.
Seal Beach proposal
SBPD recommended bringing back an in-house animal control service within the Police Department. “Currently, Senior Community Service Officers (SCSO) and Police Aides (PA) are assigned to the Support Services Bureau and perform parking enforcement, custody, jailer duties, records bureau duties and evidence management,” Henderson wrote.
The proposal would also require that Seal Beach get an animal control vehicle. Chief Gonshak told the council that the Police Department already had vehicles that could be used to transport animals.
In response to a question from District Five Councilwoman Sandra Massa-Lavitt, Capt. Henderson said the goal would be to have the animal control truck out and about 24 hours a day.
According to Henderson, the animal control truck would also enforce parking.
“So they’d come to my house and give me a ticket in the animal control truck,” Massa-Lavitt said.
Henderson said that was correct.
“The proposal is to cross-train current SCSOs and PAs as Animal Control Officers (ACO),” Henderson wrote in this staff report.
“This staffing model yields the least amount of ‘down time,’” Henderson wrote.
The report also said animal control officers would wear body cameras, just as sworn police officers do.
The report recommended an un-named no-kill shelter that was close to Seal Beach. For wildlife, SBPD recommended the Huntington Beach Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center.
Calls for service
City staff looked at calls for animal control services during the last calendar year. “There was a total of 556 Calls-for-Service in 2021. For FY 2020-21 Long Beach Animal Control took in a total of 151 animals in the City. Of that, 110 were wildlife animals and 41 were dogs or cats that were either confiscated for cruelty, surrendered by the owner, quarantined, returned adoptions, or stray animals (26 stray dogs and cats),” Henderson wrote.