The revelation that a wealthy couple is planning to build a new natural history and auto museum to house their personal collection of mounted exotic animals surprised a lot of people. None more than Gina Knepp.
Knepp is the director of the city animal shelter, which stands directly across Front Street from where Paul and Renee Snider hope to fill a 60,000-square-foot exhibit space with stuffed bears, lions, rhinos, deer and other creatures. The collection would be combined with a new 100,000-square-foot auto museum that would replace the existing California Automobile Museum.
Knepp had heard rumblings about the plan for the new auto museum. But it wasn't until she read Thursday's Bee that she realized the mounted animals were part of the plan, too.
"It does seem a little odd to have that across the street from an animal shelter, where we're feverishly trying to save lives," Knepp said, speaking by phone from Washington, D.C., where she was attending the annual No Kill Conference for advocates of saving the lives of shelter animals.
Still, Knepp acknowledged the museum debate was complicated.
"There are going to be people on both sides," she said. "Emotions run high for many people when you talk about killing wild creatures for sport and posing them in a museum so people can learn about them that way."
In one more unusual twist, the animal shelter has planned a gala in August to raise money for the facility - at the auto museum.
If plans move forward to add the mounted animal collection to the museum facility, it's a safe bet the next animal shelter gala will be held somewhere else.