Grand Jury: Orange County CA pound would rather kill than save lives
News and headlines for June 3 - June 9, 2023
These are some of the stories making headlines in animal protection:
After 14 complaints, a Grand Jury investigation into conditions at Orange County Animal Care (OCAC) uncovered poor conditions and high killing rates. This is the sixth investigation since the 1990s. Tragically, the current report determined little has changed.
Like the five other investigations, the Grand Jury found, among other things,
Excessive rates of killing;
Killing despite empty cages;
Lack of animal enrichment;
Lack of proper behavioral assessment of dogs, including lack of “written guidelines, policies, or procedures” and the elimination of dog behaviorist positions to work with stressed animals;
Lack of cooperation between staff;
Outdated policies and procedures;
Restrictive adoption programs that require an appointment;
A culture of secrecy and self-dealing; and,
“[L]ow morale negatively impacting operation of the shelter.”
Despite operating in a 10-acre site built for $35,000,000 that includes a “two-story, approximately 30,000 square-foot main building, six stand-alone kennel buildings, multiple dog play yards, a barnyard, and a rabbit housing area” — making it “the single largest municipal animal facility in the western United States” — adult cat killing has risen dramatically and killing dogs for behavior, including puppies, has increased 187%.
The Grand Jury found that many of the problems faced by the shelter are “self-inflicted.”
A particular concern of the Grand Jury was the shelter’s termination of its Trap, Neuter, and Return (TNR) program for community cats. In early 2020, the shelter decided to stop its TNR program. The Grand Jury’s investigation determined that termination of the TNR program had detrimental consequences for the welfare of the animals under the shelter’s care.
The County terminated the TNR program after its hired legal counsel (falsely) opined that TNR violated state anti-cruelty laws against abandonment. To review the reasoning for the decision, “the Grand Jury endeavored to obtain a copy of the opinion of the County’s legal counsel” from the County’s legal counsel and the Board of Supervisors. Inexplicably, “the request was declined, as was the Grand Jury’s alternative request that the County simply identify the legal authority reviewed in studying the issue.” When the Grand Jury pressed the issue, “all communications ceased.”
The Grand Jury also condemned OCAC adoption policies, which have made pandemic-era closures permanent. Specifically,
The current appointment system is restrictive and does not provide prospective adopters viewing access to all available adoptable animals… All potential adopters, appointments, and walk-ins are still required to use the shelter’s website to pre-select potential adoptees prior to a one-on-one meeting. The kennels are still off-limits to all visitors.
It noted that increases in dog and cat killing correlate to the restrictive adoption program and termination of TNR.
Finally, the Grand Jury found “that the public has requested low/no cost spay/neuter assistance from OCAC without success.” While OCAC lists spay/neuter clinics run by others on its website, “the listed phone numbers are incorrect and for those that are correct, some of the listed prices are incorrect.”
Unfortunately, the Grand Jury did not address another major problem at OCAC: an embrace of Human Animal Support Services. Under HASS, OCAC staff tell people who find lost, abandoned, and homeless cats and kittens to re-abandon them on the street, claiming that “they will find their way home.” For example, when a pregnant cat showed up in the Orange County yard of a Good Samaritan, the woman did what she thought was responsible: allow the kittens to nurse and then wean before taking them all — mama and kittens — to the shelter.
Shelter staff told her to return the feline family where she had found them. The woman explained that “Shadow” might not have a home. She did not have a collar or tag and was also pregnant when she was found. At any rate, the kittens certainly had no home to go to because they were not yet born and would not know where to go even if they did. Orange County shelter staff still turned them away.
While the Grand Jury report confirms what Orange County residents have long complained about — that OCAC staff and leadership are indifferent to animal welfare and inept in running a caring and capable shelter — these problems are not unique to OCAC. In many ways, they are the result of a deliberate dismantling of the No Kill Equation safety net at the behest of groups like Best Friends Animal Society, Austin Pets Alive, Maddie’s Fund, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, and the National Animal Control Association. It doesn’t have to be this way.
As previously reported, OCAC’s director recently resigned.
A copy of the Grand Jury report is available by clicking here.
Out of the shadows and into the sun.
Beginning Aug. 4, residents of Independence [MO] will again be allowed to own pit bulls, after more than a decade ban on the dog breed. The Independence City Council… voted 5-2 in favor of repealing breed-specific legislation that currently prohibits ownership of pit bulls.
Banning dogs based on how they look is immoral. It is also ineffective. That’s not just opinion; it’s science: