First published in the Jan. 29, 2022, print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Burbank Animal Shelter, currently overseen by the Police Department, will transition to the Parks and Recreation Department later this year, officials said.
Kristen Smith, deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting that representatives from all three entities agree that the move will increase the shelter’s efficiency and its access to new resources and outdoor spaces. The transition is slated for July 1, the beginning of the city’s next fiscal year.
Smith said that her department will allow the shelter to showcase animals for adoption at community events, use the Park and Recreation Department’s marketing platforms and provide opportunities for employees to apply for other positions within the department.
Until the transition is complete, Smith said, BPD will gradually transfer oversight of the animal shelter to Parks and Recreation starting early this year. The BPD’s budget for the animal shelter, about $1.9 million, will also shift to the other department.
The animal shelter has operated under the BPD since 1955. Officials from the Police Department, Parks and Recreation Department and animal shelter met in July 2021 to discuss a potential transition, according to a staff report submitted to the City Council.
“The Animal Shelter staff is very excited about the transition to the Parks and Recreation Department,” Brenda Castaneda, the shelter’s superintendent, said in an email. “We were very involved in the transition discussion from the start and feel that after our review, this is the right move for the Animal Shelter and the community. We look forward to the many benefits that will come as a result of the transition and see this as an opportunity to enhance the services we provide to the community and its animals.”
Marisa Garcia, director of parks and recreation, told the Leader in an email that city officials have been looking for ways to increase the efficiency of the city’s operations, and noticed that several other municipalities have moved their animal shelters to their parks and recreation departments.
“Moving to this contemporary model we are confident that under the Parks and Recreation Department the Burbank Animal Shelter will be better equipped to meet the needs of the community,” she said. “It’s a natural fit, and I am extremely excited to oversee the Burbank Animal Shelter.”
Smith emphasized that the transition won’t affect the shelter’s level of service or its staffing numbers. A police technician will remain with the shelter as a new parks and recreation position, she added.
“[Residents] shouldn’t really feel that shift. They’re still going to be able to go to the shelter and have that same interaction with shelter staff as they have before,” she told the council.
Smith also said that other cities that have transferred oversight of their animal shelters to a civilian department have not had an issue with community members taking enforcement roles less seriously. Animal control officers will retain their enforcement powers, she explained. BPD Capt. Travis Irving added that all citations will continue to come to his department.
Animal control officers will also be able provide enforcement of park rules, the staff report noted, eliminating the need for the Parks and Recreation Department to create a new park patrol position. The Parks and Recreation Department will use about $71,000 originally slated for a pilot patrol program to cover one-time costs of the transition.
The Park and Recreation Department’s Burbank Volunteer Program will also help connect volunteers to the shelter, Smith said, allowing the program to take over background screening duties from the BPD.