Community Editorial: Still Waiting for a New Animal Shelter

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California Senate Concurrent Resolution 61 recently passed declaring every October “Shelter Pet Awareness Month.” The purpose of the resolution is to promote shelter pet adoptions by raising public awareness of the hundreds of thousands of animals in California shelters.

This prompted me to check again with county officials on the status of the proposed new Orange County Animal Shelter, which will replace the current one built during World War II.

Once again, I am advised that a firm construction date “is still to be determined.” It continues to be ever more elusive supposedly due now to the “encumbered” previously Navy-owned property in Tustin. The same property of which Supervisor John Moorlach stated back in 2009 at a Republican Club meeting that the county was working to gain ownership for the purpose of building a new shelter. The same property the Board of Supervisors has used for many years as the excuse to prevent progress on a new shelter.

Oh my god, will this game ever end? Like a pet led around by a toy, “me thinks” the Orange County Board of Supervisors is “playing” with residents — except after so many years, we don’t think it is fun. Or maybe we’re all just being “played.”

What happens to these public servants when they serve on the Board of Supervisors?

As a Laguna Niguel City Council member, Pat Bates was supportive of her city ending their contract with the county for animal services and moving to contract with the Mission Viejo Animal Shelter, built in 1993, because it is pro humane and convenient. Many South County residents then supported her candidacy in 2007 for 5th District Orange County supervisor.

Chris Norby served on the Orange County Board of Supervisors as 4th District supervisor prior to moving on to the California State legislature in 2002. As a state Assembly representative, he has earned a grade F each year from a Sacramento-based political action committee for his negative voting record on animals and the environment.

Todd Spitzer served on the Orange County Board of Supervisors until he went on to the state Assembly in 2002. He, too, also earned a grade F for four years. Now he is back on the Board as 3rd District supervisor.

So what is it about the Board of Supervisors? Are they bewitched? Isn’t leadership about stepping out in front and taking bold moves, not giving in to peer pressure? Don’t true leaders try to change the status quo, not maintain it? And when maintaining the status quo cost more lives, that position is unjustifiable

As far as animals go, the supervisors act as though they have the consciousness of the “Mad Man” world — the popular television series based on the behavior during the ’50s and ’60s. The rest of us are living in the contemporary “Modern Family” world — another popular television series.

With this in mind, I recently spoke at an OC Board of Supervisors meeting representing residents from 10 of the 18 contract cities in North, central and South County. My intention was to voice the sentiments of the electorate and also enlightened the supervisors with the latest scientific information on animal consciousness, the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness.

After waiting more than five hours in a room cold enough to hang meat, it was time for my three-minute presentation (the amount of time allowed for public comments). As I quickly delivered my oral presentation and then began the 80-second video of the recent “historic” scientific acknowledgement on animal consciousness, Supervisor and Chairman Shawn Nelson began “counting down” the seconds and demanded the video be halted before it finished.

Was his disrespectful behavior indicative of the board’s attitude toward all the voters who care about the animals? If we humans don’t stand up for the “least of us,” who will? Do they prefer to remain closed-minded about the issue? Are not the thousands of homeless animals who end up at the shelter every year the moral equivalent to our own personal pets we hold dear? Perhaps if they were marched past the daily barrels of euthanized animals and the smell of death penetrated their senses and clothes, it would open their minds.

In September, the city of Los Angeles Department of Animal Services reported completion of their five new animal shelter buildings. In comparison, our county has not been able to build even one during the same period of time.

Unless the supervisors change their “attitude” on this issue, it’s not likely our residents will see the proverbial light (new animal shelter) showing up at the end of this Orange County tunnel anytime soon.

To keep the trust of the voters the supervisors need to redeem themselves to us. They need to select a property which is already available now and proceed with the shelter design.

The county clerk-recorder department has multiple locations in North, central and South County for the convenience of the residents. Perhaps, then, the county could build one main new shelter primarily for intake and assessment and create multiple smaller adoption-satellite centers convenient for the residents in the outlying north, central and south cities. This could facilitate more adoptions, more revenue and most importantly result in less euthanizing of innocent animals.

In a recently published Associated Press poll, respondents were asked to select one of two statements as representing their view:

Animal shelters should only be allowed to euthanize animals when they are too sick to be treated or too aggressive to be adopted = 71%

Sometimes animal shelters should be allowed to euthanize animals as a necessary way of controlling the population of animals = 25%

So should shelters save all their healthy and treatable pets? Americans think so by a 71% majority.

So do we think it’s time for our county to have a new and pro-humane shelter to replace the old, antiquated shelter? The resounding answer is yes. As one frustrated and longtime advocate stated for many of us recently, “I too would really like somebody to do something. This has been discussed to death.”

So, supervisors, stop “playing” with us.

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