Coronavirus budget cuts force closure of county animal shelter in San Jacinto

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The Riverside County animal shelter in San Jacinto permanently closed its doors Monday after more than $1 million in coronavirus-related budget cuts at the Department of Animals Services, officials said.

The San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus at 581 S. Grand Ave. will no longer house animals after operating for 10 years. Officials say it typically took in between 7,000 and 8,000 pets a year, while also providing services like spaying and neutering.

The county still runs three other shelters, in Jurupa Valley, Thousand Palms and Blythe. All pets remaining at San Jacinto will be relocated to the Jurupa Valley location, according to an Animal Services news release.

Click here for a list of other locations in the area where lost or abandoned animals can be taken.

Animal control officers will still respond to unincorporated areas near San Jacinto, and the shelter will continue to be considered for use in emergencies like wildfires.

The changes come after the county Board of Supervisors cut $1.3 million from the Animal Services agency for the upcoming fiscal year, according to the department, which was allocated about $24.4 million last year.

Riverside County projects a $100 million shortfall, largely due to reduced revenue and increased spending during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Every county department faced budget cuts and difficult decisions,” Animal Services Director Julie Bank said in a statement. “We didn’t want to close the San Jacinto shelter, but the budget pinch means we will be eliminating positions. We cannot operate that shelter after staffing levels continue to be eliminated.”

According to the county’s budget report, shutting down the San Jacinto shelter will result in cost savings of more than $650,000. The report also recommended shutting down the Blythe shelter, estimated to save nearly $350,000. Animals Services has not commented on whether such plans are in the works.

Bank said staffing has already decreased from 250 employees to 160, and she’s concerned the cuts could affect public safety.

“We look at ourselves not just as an animal welfare organization, but as a human service and public safety agency as well,” she told KTLA. “So when you’re cutting us, you’re cutting those services too.”

Bank asked for the community’s support in “being extra vigilant in keeping their pets safe at home.” She said the department also needs volunteers and donations.

“We need the community to really get with us and be our partner in crime here, by being responsible and getting involved,” she said.

County shelters are continuing to adopt out pets, and a list of available and lost animals can be found at www.rcdas.org.

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