San Francisco animal control considers adding corporate sponsors 

San Francisco voters rejected private advertising on street furniture and city buildings by a large margin in 2007. But The City’s animal guardians are so hard-up for cash that they have concluded that any sort of help — including corporate sponsorship — would be a relief.

Animal Care and Control Director Rebecca Katz said her agency’s vans might one day read “Thank You, Cisco,” or the name of any other business willing to assist with its finances.

Following the success of an adoption van that was donated by the Bay Area-based chain Pet Food Express, Katz said she is open to commercial enterprises as new sources of funding. Pet Food Express and Halo Pet Food also picked up the food bill for animals at the clinic, and their names were mentioned in a pet care pamphlet, Katz said.

The agency’s new commercial openness comes in a city well-known for its vilification of any signs of privatization.

Last year, the Board of Supervisors tabled a $500,000 San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency plan that would have allowed advertisers to wrap ads entirely around agency buses. And in November 2007, 61.85 percent of city voters approved Proposition K, which restricted new advertising on street furniture and city-owned buildings.

But the ordinance does not restrict city-owned vehicles.

“I’m trying to get creative,” Katz said. “It’s still in a very embryonic stage, and I’ve just been hitting a lot of walls.”

The department is down to three old vehicles — two with more than 100,000 miles on them — that are supposed to provide emergency services for as many as 35 calls a day. And if they break down, there is no more money to fix them, Katz said.

“We’re pretty desperate,” Katz said, over the sound of barking pups and meowing felines.

The 40-employee agency with a $4.5 million budget cares and finds homes for up to 600 cats, dogs and other animals at any given time. Usually the winter is a slower season, but since the start of the economic downturn the kennels have been mostly full.

The City is also mandating a 10 percent budget cutback, Katz said.

Sally Stephens, chair of The City’s animal commission and San Francisco Dog, said the promotional idea does not come as a surprise and doesn’t bother her in the least.

“I know they need money and they’re not getting it in the budget,” Stephens said.

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Kamala Kelkar

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