ALAMEDA -- A strategic plan to guide the future of the city's animal shelter should be completed within about a month, a milestone that comes nearly two years after the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter took over managing the facility.

More than 280 people have taken part in interviews, surveys and focus groups to help create the plan, which the group's board will review before it's made public.

Among the strengths that the document is expected to highlight regarding the shelter is the nonprofit's reputation within the community, plus the staff's commitment to animal welfare. But the report is also expected to identify weaknesses at the shelter, including with communication and how volunteers are managed.

The document will also likely touch on how the nonprofit can achieve its long-term goal of building a new shelter and moving out of the facility on Fortmann Way.

"It gives us a strategy and a plan for the coming years," said Nancy Evans, president of the FAAS board.

The work to draft the plan, which began in June, comes as the nonprofit's management has been under fire from critics, who say animals are not properly assessed at the shelter and that as a result some have been euthanized unnecessarily

"They are friends of the shelter, but they are not friends of the animals inside the shelter," said Kristina Ivanova, who spent a year volunteering at the facility, including around the time that the nonprofit took over.


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Ivanova said she believes the shelter singles out larger dogs for euthanasia because it can be harder to find homes for them and that some volunteers have been unwilling to criticize the nonprofit because it helped prevent the shelter from closing.

Ivanova said she vainly tried to save one adoptable dog in September 2011.

"Some dogs they favor, and some dogs they discriminate against," she said. "That's because with bigger dogs it's harder to find a home for them because many people live in apartments. That's what I feel."

Critics have also been vocal on websites and in letters to the editor, saying some animals develop behavioral problems because they do not get enough exercise at the shelter and that the nonprofit misleads the public by describing itself as "no-kill."

But Evans said shelter records show euthanasia rates are down for dogs and cats since FAAS took over in January 2012 and that adoption rates are up. The facility finds homes for 94 percent of the approximately 700 stray or homeless animals that arrive each year, Evans said.

In 2011, when the Alameda police ran the shelter, 42 dogs were euthanized. Twenty-three dogs were put down in 2012 and 20 have been euthanized so far this year, according to shelter records. This year, 138 dogs were adopted and 164 were returned to their owners.

A total of 104 cats were euthanized in 2011, 22 in 2012 and 32 this year. Shelter records also show that 284 cats were adopted this year and 30 were returned to their owners. Some 120 cats were rescued this year, compared to 43 during the final year that the police ran the facility.

Evans said she believes the critics are people not directly involved with the shelter.

"That's what's frustrating," she said. "We have not been able to identify one person connected with the shelter (among the critics). Whatever information they are getting is second- or third-hand, and it's not true."

As a shelter with an "open-door" policy, the Alameda facility accepts all animals abandoned in the city regardless of age, temperament, health, breed or other issues. City shelters in Berkeley and Oakland have a similar policy.

FAAS receives $300,000 annually from the city to manage the facility, which two years ago was facing closure due to city budget woes. The city also provides two part-time animal control officers. In turn, the nonprofit pays the city $1 in rent and is responsible for general maintenance and janitorial services.

The 15-year lease, which took effect in January 2012, has provisions for possible extensions. Olive Grove, a consulting firm based in Belmont, has been helping draft the strategic plan for the shelter's future under the nonprofit's management.

Contact Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him at Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.

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