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Saving Shelter Has Become a Pet Project for Volunteers : San Pedro: Residents have turned out to refurbish the facility, which houses 5,000 animals a year. Community involvement could prevent the shelter from being closed.


SAN PEDRO — They're a long way from their goal and there isn't much time left, but residents are moving forward with plans to save a 43-year-old San Pedro animal shelter that only recently seemed doomed to close.

Recently, more than 30 residents turned out for a meeting aimed at developing plans and recruiting volunteers to repair and refurbish the Battery Street shelter. And their efforts, organizers said, are just getting started.

"We want to keep this shelter open," Mimi Robins, a Los Angeles City Animal Regulation Department commissioner, told the crowd at the Harbor Department headquarters in San Pedro.

The shelter, which officials once planned to replace with a $1.9-million facility, was targeted for closure by Mayor Tom Bradley. The city, Bradley's office said, did not have the money to replace the shelter and could save funds by contracting with Los Angeles County to use its shelter in Carson.

But Bradley's plan was temporarily blocked by the City Council in late April. At the urging of Harbor area Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, lawmakers agreed to postpone closure of the shelter when local residents and animal rights activists asked for time to develop alternatives.

Now, with a Sept. 1 deadline looming for a progress report to Flores, local residents are scrambling to enlist volunteers to invest time and money to make an estimated $50,000 in repairs to the shelter. At last week's meeting, there was plenty of optimism the effort will be successful.

Walter Leong, a retired waterfront engineer from San Pedro, said he is working with Quality Refrigeration in Wilmington to repair the shelter's old and troublesome refrigeration unit.

San Pedro plumber Gary Stevens said he will contribute a week's worth of labor to replace faulty plumbing at the shelter and a nearby office for animal shelter workers.

And after donating $100, San Pedro real estate agent Elaine Hubaty pledged to kick in $500 from every house she buys or sells for people who ask her to contribute part of her commission to the shelter.

"I want to help the animals," Hubaty said.

In recent days, an estimated $1,500 in contributions have been raised to repair the shelter and pay for its ongoing maintenance, said Yvette Kovary, who heads a citizens advisory panel. But Kovary and others, including acting Animal Regulation Director Elza Lee, said the effort will require far more participation to persuade city lawmakers that residents are committed to the project.

"We need to prove that citizens are willing to put their money where their mouth is," Lee said.

Already, Kovary said, many residents have proven they want to keep the shelter. Several months ago, she noted, San Pedro resident Elaine Ihde organized a petition-gathering effort that quickly collected more than 1,000 signatures.

But in the coming weeks, organizers said, they will need similarly impressive proof that the community, working with groups such as the nonprofit Angels for Animals, will volunteer time and money to retain the facility. "It would be a shame to close this facility," said Michael Burns, a district supervisor for the animal regulation department. The facility houses about 5,000 impounded animals each year.

Organizers said they hope to launch a variety of fund-raising efforts and solicit more contributions of labor and materials. And if recent pledges are any indication, they said, the effort should be successful.

"I don't think they (local residents) are going to let this shelter close," Robins said.

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