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Three bid for animal service contract

Three organizations are seeking to operate Petaluma’s animal shelter, including the city’s current animal services provider and a new local animal welfare nonprofit.

The city’s three-year contract with the Petaluma Animal Services Foundation expires in August. Besides PASF, the two other bidders are Petaluma-based North Bay Animal Services, and Marin Humane of Novato.

The applicants met with city officials this week to pitch their bids ahead of a staff recommendation. The city council is expected to award the contract in June.

PASF secured the city’s original $478,000 animal services contract in 2012, when the city privatized the division, and the contract was renewed in 2015.

Some of the 10-member staff at PASF complained last year of a hostile work environment at the nonprofit that rescues and cares for pets and stray animals in Petaluma. Some accused Executive Director Jeff Charter of behavior that made them feel uncomfortable, including using racially and sexually charged language.

City Councilman Gabe Kearney, who is the liaison to the Animal Services Advisory Committee, said he welcomed having a choice of animal service providers.

The organization that wins the contract “needs to be someone I can trust to be a good steward of the public’s money and offer the best value for the community,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what the options are. It’s great to have options. I’ll be looking at who is going to be more responsive to what the community needs are.”

Charter, who is also a PASF board member, did not return a message seeking comment.

Saill White, a PASF board member, confirmed in an email that the organization responded to the request for proposal by the city.

“For more than five years we have provided a safe haven for homeless pets and a friendly, welcoming space for humans as well,” White wrote. “We have an average live release rate of 97.6 percent, which is extraordinary in animal sheltering.”

In an October report to the city, PASF stated that it took in 1,346 animals from Aug. 1, 2016 to July 31, 2017. During the same period, 572 animals were adopted and 35 were euthanized. The shelter’s live release rate was 96.9 percent, according to the report. Calls for service increased to 3,306 from 2,591 the previous year.

Petaluma Animal Services assisted in evacuating animals from the 2017 North Bay wildfires and the 2015 Valley Fire in Lake County. The organization also has contracts in Healdsburg, Calistoga and Cloverdale.

North Bay Animal Services was founded in January by Sue Davy, one of the original founding members of PASF. The nonprofit has a four-member board and a seven-member advisory committee with a combined 250 years of experience in the animal welfare industry, she said.

“We’re a group of animal welfare professionals with a lot of experience,” Davy said. “We are focused on services just in Petaluma. We’re a local solution and we know what’s happening in Petaluma.”

Davy said, if awarded the contract, her group would provide low cost spay/neuter services and humane education in schools. She said current staff at the animal shelter would be interviewed for a chance to keep their jobs.

“The city hasn’t had a lot of options before now,” she said. “We can provide something different so they can make a decision.”

Marin Humane was founded in 1907 and provides animal control services to Marin County and all of its cities from a base in Novato, according to Nancy McKenney, CEO and president. The organization found homes for 2,360 animals in 2016, according to their annual report, and performed 1,816 spay/neuter surgeries.

She said her organization was asked by the city to submit a proposal. A lot of their adopters come from Petaluma, and a lot of their staff live in Petaluma, she said.

“Marin Humane offers a well-established animal services program to the community,” she said. “This is an opportunity for Petaluma to partner with an organization that has a long track record of proving to be a resource for the community. Our solid history of operating an animal shelter with high standards while providing effective enforcement of animal law can be a source of pride to a community.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)