Selma extends helping paw to Kingsburg

Selma City Council narrowly approves contract to provide animal sheltering services to Kingsburg; Residents raise concerns over contract

The Selma City Council discusses regular business during its meeting Feb. 5, 2024. (Serena Bettis)
The Selma City Council discusses regular business during its meeting Feb. 5, 2024. (Serena Bettis)
Serena Bettis
Published May 9, 2024  • 
9:00 am

SELMA – While discussing an animal sheltering service contract between Selma and Kingsburg, Selma residents criticized both cities for how they handle animal control operations and questioned the benefit of assisting their neighbors to the south. 

Individuals who spoke during public comment at the May 6 Selma City Council meeting said they have not seen the positive change they were promised since the city started up its animal services department in January. Unhappy with the department’s performance and costs, residents said they do not want the city to take in stray dogs from Kingsburg while Selma has its own stray issue.

“We’ve got to take care of our backyard before we should go and contract with another city,” Councilmember Sarah Guerra said. “If we are going to … why don’t we go double? Instead of $60,000, go $120,000 for 60 dogs. Let’s see if they accept it. You guys want to get money? Don’t get it from our taxpayers, get it from someone else, get it from another city, get it from their taxpayer.” 

Despite the pushback from residents and some council members, the council approved the contract on a 3-2 vote, with Guerra and Mayor Scott Robertson voting against it; however, it still needs to be approved by the Kingsburg City Council before it takes effect. 

If approved, the contract will officially begin on July 1 — the start of the 2024-25 fiscal year — and last for an initial term of one year; Kingsburg will also reimburse Selma for any dogs sheltered before July 1. 

For the services provided, Selma will charge Kingsburg on a per-animal basis and will bill the city monthly. Animal Services Director Teri Rockhold said that Selma and Kingsburg staff met and estimated that the total contract cost would be $60,000 per year, based on Selma taking in 60 dogs a year with an approximate cost of $1,100 per dog on a five-day hold.

Through the contract, Selma will provide food, water, medical care and an assessment of an animal’s temperament and condition for animals brought in by Kingsburg. The contract is only for shelter services, meaning Kingsburg will continue to be responsible for animal control within its city, including transportation to the shelter.

The shelter will hold animals for the length of time outlined in the Selma Municipal Code — 5 days for strays and 10 days for rabies quarantine and protective custody holds — and the city of Kingsburg will be required to amend its municipal code to reflect the same hold periods. Vicious or dangerous dog holds will follow the existing process required by the city code. 

Contract concerns

Mayor Robertson said he was concerned with the city undercharging itself for these services. Citing his past experience with Second Chance Animal Shelter, he said Kingsburg will bring in a lot more than just 60 dogs, and if the per-animal cost is higher than the estimated $1,100 — which could happen if the shelter has to euthanize an animal — he said he didn’t think $60,000 would be enough for 60 dogs. 

“If we don’t charge them enough, then we’re subsidizing; city of Selma is subsidizing city of Kingsburg and city of Kingsburg dogs,” Robertson said. He went on to express his compassion for Kingsburg as well as the dogs and animals there, but emphasized that he does not believe the city of Selma should be responsible for subsidizing what is already a fully subsidized operation by the city.

Selma City Manager Fernando Santillan noted it was important to keep in mind that the costs included in the contract were only estimates, because the city of Selma does not have access to previous data from Second Chance’s operations. 

The contract is drafted to last for only one year so both Selma and Kingsburg can reevaluate how many dogs Selma is sheltering and what the true costs are. After nine months, the cities can discuss renewing the contract for up to four years. 

During public comment, residents also questioned why the city is helping Kingsburg shelter stray dogs when Selma and other surrounding cities continue to have their own problems with stray animals and overcrowding at shelters.

“Kingsburg has T-Mobile, many restaurants, they have so much revenue coming in,” resident Rose Robertson said. “They were supposed to do their own shelter, and they can do their own shelter, to service their own animals. I’m just still blown out of the water why we’re still catering to them when we still have animals all over town, and we need to take care of our Selma animals first.”

The city of Kingsburg has its own animal control procedures that it follows and it does its best to return stray dogs to their owners before bringing them to the Selma shelter, Kingsburg City Manager Alex Henderson said in an interview with the Mid Valley Times. As a smaller community, Henderson said Kingsburg does not have the infrastructure or employees to run a separate shelter facility, and it is common for cities to contract out these services.

“From the ability to provide the service to be a full-service community that we’d like to (be), this (contract) provides the most cost-effective solution, also given the number of stray animals that we have in Kingsburg,” Henderson said. “Certainly we’re not immune to stray animals; I would say we have more of an enforcement issue when dogs are loose … (it’s) usually owned animals.”

Henderson said this is a good example of community issues that benefit from having regional problem-solving approaches. Selma is helping Kingsburg not only through sheltering but also through education, as Selma animal services personnel will conduct two annual community outreach events in Kingsburg. Further, Rockhold said that Selma will have a better chance at receiving grants if it can show that its shelter has a regional impact.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter