The future of stray and unwanted animals in San Bernardino, CA, appears bleak and deadly thanks to a rushed decision by several city council members

GSD at SB shelter

Photo by Alice Chow, volunteer San Bernardino shelter

The San Bernardino City Animal Shelter was always the little shelter that could. While they couldn’t save all the abandoned animals that crossed their doors, the fervent volunteers worked tirelessly to try to save as many as possible. And they did this in spite of little support from the shelter manager, who at times almost seemed to work against the volunteers.

In fact, according to one of the most active volunteers, Alice Chow, volunteers would intercept dogs and cats bound for the shelter as owner surrenders and take them immediately into rescue. As many as 1,600 animals a year were saved before even passing through the shelter doors, simply because the volunteers were there, waiting to help the unwanted dogs and cats of San Bernardino.

The volunteers were also extremely active in volunteering at the shelter, taking pictures and videos of the animals daily and sharing those videos on their Facebook page, Save SBC Shelter Pups, like Sophie. For example, they posted:

sophie in isolation at SBCan I come out of isolation so someone can see me? Sophie is tail wagging , happy to see people, behind green fence where no one can see her;
SOPHIE ID #A522055
Available March 15
Sophie is a young female Shepherd/Husky mix listed as fearful …

There is much information in each Facebook post about the animal in need. Included is information about how to contact the shelter to adopt the animal, how to foster, and local rescues that can help. There is also information about how to donate to a group that provides free vaccinations to the dogs and cats in San Bernardino City.

The shelter volunteers not only save the lives of the animals that don’t make it into the shelter, they save the lives of many of the shelter animals that they get seen, adopted, and pulled by rescues through their social media presence. These people spend a great deal of their time, in addition to their full time jobs, helping the animals, and while some who work at the shelter applaud their work, others do not. And perhaps that is why some on the San Bernardino City Council voted in a way that many think will be harmful not only to future shelter animals, but to the residents of San Bernardino.

Changes were needed at the dilapidated shelter that was not only outdated, but small and in need of repair. Local rescue groups, volunteers, and animal advocates had big ideas about how to help.  And yet a mere 30 days after volunteer organizations, rescues and nonprofit groups had been invited to present proposals for taking over the shelter operation, the city council pulled the rug out from under those animal advocates. On March 20, the San Bernardino City Council voted to outsource animal services to neighboring Riverside County’s shelter, a vote that astounded volunteers who had been told they would have a chance to make a proposal to keep the shelter in San Bernardino.

Read the facts in “San Bernardino to outsource animal control services to Riverside County.” In fact, just a month ago, in February, the city council voted to allow for a process called “Request for Proposals” or RFP, so that proposals for outsourcing animal control services could be brought to the council to be decided upon. Yet in a surprise move during the March city council meeting, a council member made a motion to turn over the shelter to Riverside County. Two council members who oppose outsourcing the shelter made a motion to allow the original process to continue, but other council members did not vote to approve that motion, and the mayor did not step in to vote for it either. Instead, the surprise motion to allow Riverside County to take control of San Bernardino animals was passed.

It’s impossible to imagine why the council would vote in a manner that is patently so against the best interests of the residents and the animals of San Bernardino. The current shelter is old and desperately needs updating or for a new shelter to be built. In fact, there is supposed to be between $600,000 and $700,000 in funds for upgrading the shelter. I reached out to members of the city council for comment on this process and why they rushed the vote but no one has responded.

On a Facebook page promoting adoption at the San Bernardino shelter is this post:

The purpose of the RFP process was to allow a fair open bidding competition, allowing nonprofits (consisting of residents, volunteers, and rescues) to submit a proposal to operate a city shelter for the SB residents and their pets. An RFP needs to allow competition. The nonprofits were NOT even given a chance to submit a proposal.

Why have an RFP, if it only states Riverside can take over shelter services? Mayor John Valdivia could have broken the tie during the first vote to keep the shelter in the city, but he didn’t.

San Bernardino City residents…it’s time for you to SPEAK UP~ if you don’t want your shelter services to go to Riverside, please email your council members and city officials. Your VOICES MATTER!!! You are the only hope left.
Thank you Council members Ibarra and Nickel for fighting for your constituents.

Here’s a recent Facebook post about three German shepherds that were found and brought to the Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 10.47.47 PMshelter. As the post notes, there are many shepherds at the shelter already. The volunteers get this kind of information out to the public so that it’s easier for owners to find lost dogs, and because the shelter is local, it’s easy for residents to reclaim their pets.

The four council members who voted to outsource to Riverside are Teddy Sanchez, Fred Shorett, Bessine Richard, and Jim Mulvihill. The two council members who voted against the Riverside outsource are Sandra Ibarra and Henry Nickel.

Sandra Ibarra made a substitute motion (instead of the motion to outsource shelter operations to Riverside County) to refer the RFP process to the Animal Control Commissioners. She believed that they should have input into the process and vet the different options. She complained about the rush to outsource shelter operations and asked why. Henry Nickel seconded her motion, but no one else voted to approve it. Thus, the volunteers and groups who had been working desperately to find ways to keep the shelter in San Bernardino were shut down without their proposals even getting a chance to be heard or considered.

Something extremely bothersome to anyone viewing the situation is that it appears that at no time did the council members who voted to outsource the animal services operation talk to those who run the Riverside shelter to ask about their euthanasia rate (how many animals are killed for space).

fine post no name SBC shelter

Facebook comment

The council members so eager to send San Bernardino animals to Riverside County do not appear to have asked if Riverside plans to build more space for the new animals from San Bernardino — the 9,000 animals per year — that will be arriving. If there is no space for them, will they be killed immediately? How will this affect the homeless animals in Riverside County? The volunteers at San Bernardino shelter who now take almost 2,000 animals in the parking lot — animals who don’t even cross the shelter’s doors — will not be able to do that when the shelter is an hour away. And those San Bernardino residents who take their unwanted pets to the local shelter, local being the keyword, may not have the time, the money for gas, or even the transportation to take their unwanted dog or cat an hour away. Instead, they may leave their dog or cat on the street to try to fend for itself — never a humane option.

A recent Facebook post:

San Bernardino City residents…it’s time for you to SPEAK UP~ if you don’t want your shelter services to go to Riverside, please email your council members and city officials. Your VOICES MATTER!!! You are the only hope left.
Thank you Council members Ibarra and Nickel for fighting for your constituents.,,,,,,,,,,,

Another Facebook post:

“The city council in San Bernardino voted to outsource animal services to high-kill, opaque, overcrowded Riverside shelter. Not only is it far from San Bernardino, so people won’t surrender their animals (they’ll just turn them loose), many of the dogs we’ve been so successful in getting saved through our networking (or as we call them, the underdogs) will never make it out to the adoption floor. They’ll stay hidden behind locked gates until they are killed. Shame on you San Bernardino City Council. Shame on your San Bernardino Police Department. Residents need to flood the streets in protest. Every city deserves a shelter; especially one with so many stray animals.”

Volunteers are concerned that with no permanent city shelter, those who don’t want their pets will just dump them on the streets to be hit by cars, die of starvation, or roam and endanger citizens. Driving to Riverside can be difficult for those wishing to relinquish ownership of their pets or those who want to look for a lost pet. There is also the problem that the fees will be higher to reclaim a lost pet at Riverside County, and local tax dollars will now go to a different county.

A Facebook post about Riverside County shelter:

The Riverside County shelter is in no position to be taking in more animals. As posted with the statistics from just January and February of this year, an animal advocate wrote, “In two months… January and February of this year, Riverside County Animal Services killed 245 dogs and a staggering 571 cats. That’s TWO MONTHS published outcome stats. Do you really think the animals at San Bernardino City Shelter, if outsourced to Riverside, will be better off? Don’t be fooled. Their lives are in your hands, citizens of San Bernardino! Be their voice.”

One of the volunteers at the San Bernardino shelter explained that residents “need a city shelter to provide education, have a physical location, offer free spay/neuter.” She said, “Riverside would not do that for us — they would make people bring their animals to Riverside which would be huge obstacle to safely relinquish them.”

She went on to explain that volunteer groups did what the shelter should have done (and what they were hoping the new shelter would do). “When we did vaccination clinics, we did them in specific neighborhoods where it was needed. We’d get specific requests and (the residents would) tell us that they needed it in certain locations. The response was huge – our first one we did over 400 dogs and 200 microchips (that’s all we had). No name of one group, just a bunch of rescues that came together to do that. A few years later, Daisy’s Hope foundation saw the need and did that. Other rescues help but now they set it up. It’s a collaboration.”

San Bernardino animal advocates said, “The population of San Bernardino can’t all drive; they need a local shelter because of transportation problems. There is a backyard breeder problem. Their animals run loose in the streets. Without a local shelter, there will be no place for the animals to go. If the ACO has to take an injured animal to Riverside and then come back, something could happen to the animal during the lengthy travel time. Trying to claim an animal back would be impossible because of the distance. Their (Riverside) fees are higher.”

In summary, it appears that the members of the San Bernardino City Council made a rushed, uninformed decision that, if implemented, harms almost everyone in the equation. It certainly will harm the animals and residents of San Bernardino. It will harm those in Riverside whose animals will now have less time to find homes and rescue because of the additional thousands of San Bernardino animals arriving there. It will harm the finances of San Bernardino because tax dollars will be leaving the county. It’s a terrible, hurtful, inhumane solution to the shelter problem.

Whenever government rushes decisions without taking proper time and allowing for all voices to be heard, it’s the people (and animals) who will suffer. Please take time to contact the city officials about this. Sign the petition. They need to hear from residents and those around the country that animals deserve better than this!

Also, Wednesday, April 3rd there will be a protest regarding the shelter. Read the information from Facebook posts:

San Bernardino City Animal Shelter 
Peaceful Demonstration

Who: Supporters of the SBC animals

Purpose: Keep the San Bernardino City Animal Shelter open, not outsourced to Riverside County

Date: Wednesday, April 3

Time: 5:00-6:30pm

Location: corner of Orange Show Road & E Street (sidewalks only)

Check in: 4:30pm.
499 W E Orange Show Rd., San Bernardino, California 92408
Please park in the parking lot of Lotions & Lace. There will be a check in tent.

6:30-8pm attend the SB city council meeting as a guest or speaker only.
201 North E ST New Council Chambers
San Bernardino CA 92401

KTLA Channel 5 media will be there. Please invite other media outlets.

⭐️ Guidelines:

• For safety reasons, we are taking extra precautions. Each demonstrator will be required to sign in, showing ID and a picture will be taken. Then you will get a sticker.

• Expect undercover police officers in regular clothing among our group like last time. They are there to keep us safe.

• Stay positive and peaceful.

• Do Not engage with police officers- direct them to organizers and our attorneys

• Positive signs only

• Carry ID on you

• Stay on Sidewalks

• Pass out flyers

• Keep your cell phones on video mode to record the demonstration

Areas to be ONLY:
Sidewalks of Orange Show Rd and E St

Thank you for your love and dedication to the SBC animals!

♥️ SBC pup #A522378

EVENT link:




Please keep any comments as positive as possible, and please share this information through your social media networks.

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