County Shelter Faces $2.5 Million Animal Abuse Suit

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Orange County’s animal shelter is being sued for $2.5 million by a nonprofit rescue group for an alleged pattern of animal abuse and neglect, according to a lawsuit filed in late July.

OC Animal Care, the official name of the shelter, failed to provide injured animals with proper veterinary attention, and its staff “routinely kill healthy and adoptable animals without first holding the animals for the minimum period of time mandated by law”, according to the suit filed by Sharon Logan of the Seal Beach-based non-profit, Paw Protectors Rescue.

The suit also alleges employees took “retaliatory actions” against Logan, including “indefinitely suspending her rights as a rescuer and refusing to release animals to her” and her organization, which also has a facility to house animals.

County spokeswoman Jean Pasco declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing a policy not to comment on pending litigation.

Logan argues in the suit that Orange County is not in compliance with the state’s Hayden Law, which says public shelters and pounds must hold animals for 4-6 business days before euthanizing. The law also requires shelters to release stray animals to any registered non-profit that requests them, with the intention of transferring animals that would otherwise be euthanized to private shelters.

Other allegations include:

• Euthanizing of animals that are ill or injured, but treatable

• Euthanizing animals with improper justification, such as “geriatric” animals

• Failing to give animals “meaningful opportunity for reunification with their owners or adoption”

• Failing to release animals to rescue and adoption organizations

• Failure to provide animals with adequate water, shelter and exercise

In 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown attempted to roll back portions of the Hayden Law to save money in the state budget. Because the 1999 law is a state mandate, the state must compensate shelters for the extra days they are required to keep animals alive, or some $23 million a year, according to an article in SFGate.com. 

OC Animal Care already faces its own budget problems. In June, the Board of Supervisors voted to increase shelter fees to cover a $625,000 shortfall caused by rising operating costs. In all, the new fee structure is expected to generate more than $10 million in annual revenues for countywide animal control efforts. The remainder of the agency’s $17 million budget will be largely funded through city and county contributions.

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