The eyes and ears of animal lovers across Orange County will be focused on the court proceedings to take place on Friday, October 24, 2014 at 9:30 a.m., Central Justice Center, 700 Civic Center Drive in Santa Ana. This is when Judge David R. Chaffee, appointed by former Republican Governor Wilson, will consider the $2.5 million dollar lawsuit filed against employees of the county Animal Care Center.

(However, since you can only delegate authority, but not responsibility, I believe the Orange County Board of Supervisors are essentially responsible for actions or inactions at the county animal shelter.)

Orange county resident, Sharon Logan, filed suit against employees at the Center (animal shelter) and the county attorney’s answer was a “demurrer” and a “motion to strike” Logan’s request for damages and attorney fees.

“A demurrer is a pleading in a lawsuit that objects to or challenges a pleading filed by an opposing party. The pleadings explain each party’s side of the dispute. The word demur means “to object”.

“Lawyers informally define a demurrer as a defendant saying………so what!

The lawsuit revolves around the 1998 California Senate Bill 1998 (known as the Hayden Act) and signed into law, interestingly, by Governor Wilson. Among the several requirements instituted by the law were expanding the holding time for animals impounded at public shelters from a ridiculous 72 hours “to 4 or 6 business days, as specified, and would require that the animal be released to a nonprofit animal rescue or adoption organization in certain circumstances, subject to specified to specified exceptions.”

Unfortunately, due to lack of state funding, several of the provisions have since been suspended.

“Until Hayden gets funded by the state, the mandatory hold period is 72 hours,” says Alison Stanley, Associate Director League of Humane Voters. Reverting back to 72 hours is especially bad for cats. Many owners don’t immediately look for their missing cat thinking they will return and fail to check with the shelter.

In 2013 alone, 202 cats were returned to their owner, but 6,886 cats were euthanized.

More than ever, identification with a tag or better yet a microchip for your pets, is imperative.

Interestingly, the appropriations Committees of both houses of the California Legislature felt SB1785 was cost-effective and did not require funding from the State. More time allowed more opportunities to get adoption fees or “owner-redemption” fees/fines which are lost, along with the animals’ lives if they are euthanized. It is “revenue-negative” to run a shelter for animal disposal purposes. It costs Orange County taxpayers $3,300 a month for rendering services alone.

On the other hand, adoption and owner-redemption are “revenue-positive. Adoptions would increase if the Board of Supervisors had followed through on their promises, back in the 90’s, for a new shelter which would have allowed more visibility of adoptable animals and a more conducive environment. Now due to the increase in population, the county needs more than one.

Quite frankly, I am surprised a lawsuit has not been filed before now.

One has simply to visit the 73 year old, one and only, county animal shelter located at 561 The City Drive South in the city Orange and see the physical conditions of the facilities.

The open trough which runs along the front of the dog kennels and filled with dog feces exposes the public, staff and animals to bacteria on a daily basis. The layout of the shelter is based on outdated 1940s technology and it is far too small to appropriately serve the current population, approximately two million people.

A south county coalition requested their district representative, Supervisor Pat Bates to consider using just a few acres of county property so that a shelter could be built convenient to area residents, decreasing drive time, and facilitating more adoptions.

However, it was denied by the supervisors. It appears they had plans to utilize the entire 100+ acre property to expand the present Musick jail in South Orange County and construction has already began. Why does the county need all this acreage? It will obviously be more than “two housing modules” as Supervisor Moorlach once claimed.

I recently queried a nearby small business owner on the jail expansion and he responded with his concerns about property values and public safety. In fact, many residents of the two cities which border this south county property, Lake Forest and Irvine, do not want the jail expansion there at all. The city of Irvine is suing the county on the issue. Lake Forest city council candidates Gardner, Miller and Cagley say more should be done to guarantee public safety and the current city council has not sufficiently taken this into consideration.

I believe rather than building a large resort-like prison for criminals, the Supervisors should put the needs of tax payer’s first.

I don’t know what the final outcome of the animal shelter lawsuit will be. “Animal rescuers and shelter volunteers are compassionate people who open their hearts and homes to provide a safety-net for animals others may have abandoned” says Nathan Winograd who founded the No Kill Advocacy Center in California. “They show tremendous courage and compassion………visiting a place that is hard for most animal lovers to go.”

Shelter staff experience a stressor that those in other helping professions do not. They literally make life and death decisions every day. Some are asked to end the lives of the very creatures they have saved and nurtured.

In fact, Compassion Fatigue, once thought to be a malady experienced only by caregivers for humans, has been showing up in the animal care field as well.

Knowing all of this and after decades of pleas from constituents for a new county animal shelter, the Orange County Board of Supervisors response is apparently………so what!

No amount of information has changed their backward thinking on animal ethics over the years so far. Regardless, aren’t they supposed to be public servants, not self-serving.

Having compassion for animals will not topple human beings from the pinnacle of creation. So for my readers who are spiritually aware and the Orange County Board of Supervisors who begin each board meeting asking for the Lord’s guidance, I will close with a quote from a man on the Gallop poll of most Admired Men Among Americans, Rev. Billy Graham………

“Yes, let me assure you that God is concerned about our care of every part of His creation -including the animals. After all, He made them, and ultimately they belong to Him. The Bible says we must never treat any part of God’s creation with contempt. When we do, we are indirectly treating our Creator with contempt. Instead, God calls us to be stewards or trustees of His creation, and the Bible reminds us that we are responsible to Him for the way we treat it. We’ve often forgotten this — but it’s still true, and when we ignore it we not only hurt God’s creation but we also hurt ourselves.”

You may view the complaint here and the county’s response here.

Rose Tingle is an animal rights advocate, longtime Orange County resident and a member of the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board.

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