OAKDALE — In 1974, when the city had about 5,000 residents, it built an 800-square-foot shelter for stray and unwanted pets.
Today, that same building just south of River Road serves not only Oakdale, which has grown to about 21,000 people, but also Riverbank, which is a little bigger.
The recent addition of outdoor kennels and a dog play yard have helped, but leaders in both cities say it could be time for a replacement.
"It's just in pretty sad shape," said Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins, whose department oversees the shelter. "We need to start over instead of expanding there."
One problem: Both city governments have tight budgets, so they are counting on private fund-raising to pay for the new shelter.
The cost could be perhaps $1 million, said Curtis Lineberger, executive director of a new group called Animal Shelter To Riverbank/Oakdale, or ASTRO.
Lineberger, who used to be a Riverbank city councilman and now lives in Oakdale, said the first step is a $4,400 study that would rough out the needs. It would be conducted by Animal Arts, an architectural firm in Boulder, Colo., that works with shelter fund-raising groups.
The Oakdale City Council voted last month to cover half the study cost. The Riverbank council will consider paying the other half today.
'In a perfect world ...'
The study has support from the Oakdale Shelter Pet Alliance, president Betsie Corwin said. This volunteer group, established in 2004, helps with adoptions, spay-neuter clinics, shelter improvements and other efforts. Recent projects include the new kennels and play area, where dogs can get daily exercise and interact with people interested in adopting them.
The shelter can have as many as 60 dogs and 30 cats during busy times, said Danielle Hilgen, an interim animal service officer, during a tour of the Liberini Road site Tuesday. There are 23 kennels, but shelter capacity can fluctuate because some animals can share kennels, while others have to be alone because of size or temperament.
"In a perfect world, a new building would be great," Hilgen said. "We work with what we have."
What they have includes a reliable crew of volunteers who help care for the dogs and cats, said Hilgen and Michael Shaw, an animal control officer.
Riverbank started contracting with Oakdale for shelter services in 2009, after officials decided this would be cheaper than taking part in a new regional shelter involving Stanislaus County and five other cities. The regional project was completed off Crows Landing Road in 2011.
The Oakdale shelter, as such operations tend to be, is in a remote area so the noise and odors do not bother neighbors. It's also next to the police firing range, where gunshots a few days a month can bother the animals.
Lineberger said the fund-raising for a new shelter could start after the study lays out the needs.
One thing seems clear: Extra space would reduce the need to euthanize animals.
"It just breaks people's hearts because they are adoptable," Lineberger said. "You just don't have room at the inn."
The Riverbank City Council will meet at noon today at City Hall, 6707 Third St.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.
AT A GLANCE
Visit www.oakdaleshelterpetalliance.org for more about the Oakdale Shelter Pet Alliance, which supports shelter operations with volunteers and fund-raising.
Visit www.astrofoundation.org for more about Animal Shelter To Riverbank/Oakdale, or ASTRO, which plans to raise money for a new shelter.