Orange County Tax Payers and Homeless Animals Deserve Better
by Jackie Lamirande
I have been in the Animal Welfare industry for over 30 years and have been an animal lover my entire life. Previously I was a volunteer in good standing at Orange County Animal Care (OCAC). I resigned in 2020 due to concerns about shifts in shelter policies and procedures when the current administration was put in place. This includes but is not limited to changes in the adoption process implemented during the pandemic years and now being presented as “best practices.” Those policies require appointments in advance, limit the number of animals that can be met, and require they be selected from a website that, for the majority of animals, only offers the basics of breed, sex, etc. Only a small percentage even includes a written description of the animal, which limits the potential for properly matching adopters with compatible companion animals. I believe that these policies are contributing to the declining performance of OCAC in serving the county and the animals under their care.
- The length of stay for adult dogs and cats increased from 13.5 days in 2019 to 21.6 days in 2022 (up 60%). Shelter studies indicate that higher duration in a shelter environment without adequate socialization and exposure to humans increases stress. This stress contributes to behavioral problems, thereby increasing the risk of euthanasia. The behavior problems in large dogs were exacerbated by discontinuing playgroups, which had shown very positive results in prior years.
- The rate of euthanasia for adult dogs more than doubled between 2019 and 2022, even though there was a 28% decrease in the number of adult dogs taken in. More than 150 dogs have already been euthanized this year, and more lives are lost each day we continue accepting the status quo.
- The rate of returns is also higher from 2019 to 2022 in both cats and dogs.
- OCAC insists that its adoption system is similar to other area shelters, but this is not the case. Other shelters (San Diego, Riverside, and LA) have an appointment system that allows the public to walk through the shelter.
The status quo with the existing management practices of OCAC is not serving the taxpayers or homeless animals of Orange County. The above data points to decreasing performance, but history shows that performance can be better given the right policies and management. I propose we put new management in place that has knowledge and experience in humane animal welfare policies and practices, and we encourage them to make full use of available resources to turn performance back toward positive trends. This should include partnering with respected animal welfare organizations like Humane Society US, ASPCA, Best Friends, etc., including auditing and recommendations for improvement. They are qualified to assess OC shelter policies/practices and recommend real best practices based on a wealth of facts and data collected across many municipal shelters across the nation. These entities have developed innovative programs focused on saving more lives while operating efficiently and effectively in a shelter environment. Orange County taxpayers and animals under OCAC care deserve no less.
The above data was retrieved from: OCAC’s “Shelter Statistics” from its website, Public Records Act requests, and daily downloads on OCAC dogs collected from its website.
OC Animal Care is continuing to mislead the public
by Michael Mavrovouniotis
But OCAC’s numbers still don’t add up. You should get the final count if you take the animals’ beginning count, add intakes (animals coming in), and subtract outcomes (animals leaving the shelter). It’s like a checkbook. The shelter’s numbers flunk this test.
Let’s look at their “corrected” 2023 1st Quarter statistics and reconcile them, like a bank or credit card statement. We copied the key rows from the official statistics to get this reconciliation spreadsheet
Take the first data column on Adult Dogs.
- The shelter started with 211 adult dogs.
- It took in 1,034
- It released 941 live
- It euthanized 77 (that’s what “other outcomes” really means)
- The shelter says it ended up with 222 dogs
How can that be? The final count should be 211 + 1,034 – 941 – 77 = 227. There are two possible conclusions:
- 5 adult dogs somehow fell off the books
- OCAC doesn’t keep track of how many animals it has. Its counts are only guesses.
The spreadsheet shows that plenty of animals are missing from the shelter’s books in every category. When the shelter’s violations of common sense and industry standards were reported to the county, the information fell on deaf ears. The shelter’s statistics are invalid until the shelter tells us what happened to unaccounted animals – and makes its animal checkbook balance in all its reports for 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023.
That’s not all. Why are the 2nd Quarter statistics (April-June) not available? What is the county hiding? All our peer shelters put their statistics online weeks ago. Even companies with worldwide operations have already presented their 2nd Quarter reports. It’s mid-August, and OC Animal Care is unable to tell us how many animals came into the shelter from April to June.
Who is responsible for the production of the wrong statistics?
Has the county done anything to fix the problem?
Is an audit of all the statistics going to be ordered?
Why is the county refusing to provide the shelter’s 2nd Quarter statistics?
Until we have answers, we cannot rely on any statistics published by OC Animal Care.