It is with a heavy heart that I share that a seasoned dog volunteer of 15 years was seriously attacked by a shelter dog. The volunteer was bitten 18 times and sustained over 90 puncture wounds. Since the kennel area had no visitors, the incident lasted for a while until a kennel attendant heard the screams for help. The volunteer is thankfully home after a visit to the UCI Medical Trauma dept and surgery on both arms. She was severely traumatized physically and psychologically, possibly with lasting effects. As of this date, Orange County Animal Care (OCAC) has not even reached out to the volunteer to inquire about their recovery status.
The dog was one of 37 dogs who were part of Kennel Connection, a program that (for 5 hours per week) allows the public to view dogs, supposedly thoroughly screened and vetted.
What are the factors involved in the negligence of (OCAC) leading to this horrible occurrence?
● Based on the National Animal Care & Control Association (NACA) Guidelines cited in the Grand Jury Report (GJR) from page 27 on, the kennels are woefully understaffed. This is because management keeps hiring more and more administrative staff but not kennel staff. Of more than 130 employees at the shelter, only about 20 are allocated for direct animal care, feeding, and enrichment. The recommended number is over 60 (based on current animal numbers). With an annual budget of over 26M, OCAC can and must do better.
● OCAC has no behavioral protocol for evaluating animals. Their assessment is completely arbitrary. In fact, there have been animals deemed most adoptable also on the euthanasia alert list (per Public Records Act and http://OCShelter.com.) There are no written guidelines, policies, procedures, or standards for evaluating animal behavior (GJR). OCAC apparently promoted a false sense of security by understating the number of bites for 2021-2022 to make their system seem successful. This information was given to the county but was ignored.
● Also adding to the poor behavioral conditions is the absence of a certified animal behaviorist, inadequate dog enrichment programs, and no record-keeping (GJR). In 2019, there were an average of 3 playgroups per week for large dogs, working towards 5 playgroups per week. Playgroups for large dogs went to zero under the current management.
● The stress level for animals and people is compounded by the increased length of stay for dogs. 2022 showed an average of over 20 days compared to less than 10 in 2018 (http://OCShelter.com). This is due to ineffective adoption procedures that prevent the public from seeing dogs in their kennel areas and force them instead to pick just a couple of animals to visit from web photos. Recently, OCAC did “improve” adoption protocol by allowing the public to peruse the kennels for 5 hours per week and only for a small subset of dogs. Longer stays without socialization lead to increased stress for the animals.
This was an accident waiting to happen. According to two seasoned Animal Control Officers (ACOs), this was the 3rd severe incident involving a volunteer and dog under the present management. In their experience as ACOs, these occurrences are very rare, and truly aggressive dogs should be easy to identify.
What can you do to help?
Please contact city managers and mayors in each of the 14 cities that have contracts with OCAC. Tell them to expect more from OCAC; they are obviously failing the animals in their jurisdiction. Please contact the Board of Supervisors https://board.ocgov.com/contact and let them know that the kennel staff, volunteers, and animals of OCAC deserve better. Supervisors must do their job and overhaul management at the shelter and Orange County Community Resources.
You may be interested in this story as well: https://fullertonobserver.com/2022/09/08/animal-activists-demand-changes-at-orange-county-animal-care-shelter/