Things are looking up for the people and orphan animals in Orange County who have been campaigning for years to replace the 74 year old county animal shelter.

Since the last Orange County Grand Jury Report dated June 17, 2015, now 5 reports total, which ripped apart the conditions and leadership of the shelter, cities which have been contracting with the county for animal services are now looking into alternatives.

Due to the fact the 18 contract cities must respond to the 4th Grand Jury report of May 21, 2015, Lake Forest city council members Dr. Jim Gardner and Adam Nick along with Barbara Kogerman, Laguna Hills Mayor Pro Tem took time out of their busy schedules and toured the 74 year old county animal shelter.

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As a result, this was their recommendation to their fellow Lake Forest council members.

“We acknowledge and applaud the hard work and dedication of the staff and volunteers at the Orange County Animal Shelter who do their best under the most difficult conditions, with limited resources and support from the County.

We are embarrassed and ashamed that in 2015 a wealthy community like Orange County operated a shelter in our name that exists under these conditions.

We read the two recent Grand Jury reports and concur with their findings.

We visited the Orange County Animal Shelter ourselves on July 8, 2015 and we found the shelter to be understaffed, with poor physical resources, limited space the animals, outdated enclosures that belong to another century, and sparse environments to foster animal well-being.

We are shocked, most of all, by the noise and the stench and especially by the despair in the eyes of most of the animals. It is heart-breaking and several of us could not endure the extended visit without coming to tears.

We do not believe that the county has a viable plan to remedy these situations in the foreseeable future.

We believe that the best way to represent our citizens and to reflect basic decency is to work together to explore the feasibility of locating, building, operating and maintaining a multi-city shelter to serve South County cities. We believe such a shelter would provide higher quality of care and better service at a lower price.

We will reach out to nearby cities that contract with Orange County Animal Care to explore jointly funding an independent study to determine the feasibility of providing animal shelter and animal care services for the cities of Laguna Hills, Lake Forest, and other participating cities.

Said feasibility study will be designed to present a program evaluation, building assessment and cost estimates, considering the complete building needs and cost analysis, assess the current and future needs to accommodate the animal population, as well as assessing existing OC Animal Care facility and services from functional, cost, safety and estimated scheduling aspects.

We hope that other cities will consider participating in the development of such a feasibility study.”

If you would like to contact any of these Orange County council members, here is their contact info:

Lake Forest Council member Dr. Jim Gardner, DrJGardner@yahoo.com

Laguna Hills Council member Barbara Kogerman, Kogerman4Council@cox.net

Lake Forest Council member Adam Nick, AdamNick1776@gmail.com

These thoughts and information were also conveyed at the Rancho Santa Margarita city council meeting on Tuesday night July 8 by Dr. Gardner, Ms. Kogerman and several other speakers.

Mayor McGirr and council members were receptive and city staff was directed to explore other options for animal services. Council member Holloway referred to the Grand Jury information as “alarming.”

The Laguna Hills city council will vote on their response to the grand jury at Tuesday’s July 14 city council meeting.

The Lake Forest city council will vote on their response to the grand jury at Tuesday’s July 21 city council meeting.

North County cities are also looking into alternatives to contracting with the county for animal services.

Cecilia Hupp, Brea city council woman who earlier this year toured animal shelters and viewed the pictures of the OC Animal Shelter taken on July 8 stated:

“Those pictures just break my heart! Every Council in Orange County should take that tour (referring to Orange County animal shelter) and then see Mission Viejo (city) Animal Shelter!”

The city of Mission Viejo withdrew from contracting with the county 20 years ago and built their own pro humane animal shelter.

As I (as well as the OC Register and L. A. Times) have reported numerous times, for close to 20 years the Orange County Board of Supervisors have been stating they will replace the aging county shelter and using words like “priority” and “deep discussions.”

But all they have really done is raised costs to the contract cities because the population has increased and the shelter is deteriorating.

Meanwhile, new construction costs are increasing. And who will pay for the construction of a new county shelter if, and that’s a big IF, a new county shelter is built? The contract cities will!

Oh, the county has been “dangling” $5 million dollars for construction since 1996, but how much have construction costs increased since then?

So what is the finding of the Grand Jury 4th report dated May 21, 2015?

“The Grand Jury has concluded that the county’s lack of leadership, lack of commitment to animal care, and the prioritization of other Orange County Community Resources functions ahead of Orange County Animal Care are the primary reasons for failure to address the need of new Animal Shelter Facilities.”

Bingo!

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