Community Editorial: OC Among Stingiest in Animal Shelter Funding

County Animal Shelter
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As recently reported by the Voice of OC, the Orange County Board of Supervisors will be deciding June 10 how to handle the Orange County Animal Care financial shortfall.

They initially had three options, two of which were either to use general funds or cut services and hours at the shelter to cover the shortfall. But after a thorough presentations by shelter Director Ryan Drabek and OC Community Resources director, Steve Franks, 11 public speakers (unusually high number) and a two-and-a-half hour discussion, the Board could not come to a unanimous vote on either of the two.

At one point, Supervisor Nelson and Chairman even asked “What do our customers want us to do?”

Mr. Drabek responded “fund our program”.

At that point, applause rang out from the audience which included the 11 speakers.

We do not want services cut!!

I agree.

Last year’s shelter figures show a decrease in the euthanization of animals and an increase in adoptions. This was much the result Drabek’s philosophy of addressing the cause rather than the effect, a philosophy much needed in government.

There still are too many irresponsible and/or ignorant pet owners out there who are the cause of unnecessary euthanization of these God created creatures and add cost to the shelter operations. The programs implemented by his staff and volunteers are helping. A cut in services just when we are now seeing improvements, is not logical or ethical and at this point would be detrimental to the community

The Supervisors finally decided on the third option, send Drabek and Franks back to the “drawing board” for more information on “user fee” structure and come back on June 10 when they will decide on possibly raising “user fees” to cover the shortfall. What?

As I see it, part of the problem here is that the Orange County Animal Shelter is 73 years old! It is expensive to maintain this antiquated facility and it also affects revenue producing adoptions.

The structures and layout of the shelter are based on 1940s knowledge of animal sheltering, or “pounds” as they were called then and hardly conducive to adoption in many ways. Staff (minus 15% unfilled) has had to work around it.

So why are the supervisors wanting to pass on the costs to the responsible pet owners through user fees when the Board of Supervisors have failed to adequately do their job?

In my opinion, this whole issue of a shortfall is no-brainer!

Take it from General Funds.

The county contributes far less, 40%, to the animal shelter than any municipality in California. The whole community benefits from the shelter’s programs either directly or indirectly!

The cities which contract for animal services agreed to come halfway to cover the shortfall, as rightly they should because the county isn’t totally at fault for the lack of adequate facilities.

The cities have also neglected this issue far too long. It’s like “you-do-it, no-you-do-it” game the cities have played with the county.

The result is: nobody does it!

Where is the political leadership on this issue? There is none!

And all this time, the answer the public has been given for two decades is “the county is building a new regional animal shelter in Tustin”.

Really, so where is the timeline?

The analogy Supervisor Nelson, ex-Fullerton mayor, used when he spoke of user fees was nonsense. Comparing a gas station where you pump gas to an animal shelter that saves living beings indicates his refusal to acknowledge and accept the sentience (ability to feel) of animals and the importance of the work the animal shelter performs.

His statement that no one has complained about high user fees shows his lack of knowledge. Just ask the South County Coalition for an Animal Shelter what they have been doing since 2008….or Fullerton which paid for a joint animal shelter feasibility study in 2001.

I was stunned when he said “Irvine needs to build a bigger shelter or do something. It’s a very big city.” Really? Isn’t that a bit like “the pot calling the kettle black”, the idiom used to claim that a person is guilty of the very thing of which they accuse another.

For your information the city of Irvine is 66.3 square miles and has a population of 213,117 and one animal shelter solely for that city. In contrast, the county of Orange is 947 square miles and currently has one very old and inadequate 73 year county animal shelter. It is expected to serve 17 cities and all the unincorporated areas of Orange County, approximately 2 million people! The county needs at least 3 new shelters!

And Spitzer’s statement that he supports spay and neuter is not true, at least that is what his earlier record in State legislature indicates. Maybe he had a lapse of memory.

In early 2010, a joint committee with equal representation from the OC Council of Governments and OC Transportation Authority formed to develop the OC Sustainable Communities Strategy. One of the Sustainability Strategies indicated was; Increase regional accessibility in order to reduce vehicle miles traveled.

That is exactly what the South County Coalition for an Animal Shelter has been campaigning to do!

Coalition leader Dr. James Gardner advises, after the election of 5th District Supervisor Bates, an anonymous donor was ready to contribute 1 million dollars towards the construction of a satellite County shelter for South County residents at a vacant county landsite. The answer came back from the Board, no can do. The landsite is still vacant.

It doesn’t appear our politicians have listened or care to listen to their constituents! Just this last March, Bates, Nelson and Spitzer were afforded an opportunity to join in on an informal roundtable discussion about this issue with their constituents from both North and South County at the Voice of OC Headquarters. All declined. You can hear the podcast of the entire meeting here.

I hope this next election results in new Supervisors who will listen to their constituents. In February 2013, a poll by Pew Research Center showed that 62% of Americans polled and 65% percent of independent voters viewed Republicans as “out of touch” with the American people. Perhaps they were thinking about our Orange County Board of Supervisors.

And folks, if you have not paid your dog license yet, please do so here online. I don’t know what the supervisors will decide and you will be helping the shelter. Thanks!

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