Supervisor Promises Animal Advocates a Say in Changing Euthanasia Policies

Animal advocates saw progress this week in their efforts to reduce euthanasia at the Orange County animal shelter, with a promise from County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett to involve them in discussions to change the county’s process for deciding whether to kill shelter animals.

Responding to sustained pressure from activists – who showed up in force at a recent supervisors’ meeting and spoke up again this week – Bartlett also expressed interest in having an animal behavioral specialist get involved in deciding whether animals are too aggressive, something advocates say isn’t currently done at the shelter.

“I think that our county policy needs to be revisited,” Bartlett said after advocates spoke at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, adding “I would like to have you join me in the process of fixing the policy.”

“I think right now, when animals are brought in and then they’re assessed, they’re either ‘okay,’ or they’re ‘aggressive’ or ‘vicious.’ And so there’s no in-between. I think we need a better method for classification and assessing animals, and I think maybe getting an animal behavioral specialist involved would be very helpful.”

Bartlett’s comments came after an outcry from advocates last month over the county’s euthanasia practices, unsanitary shelter conditions, and a lack of progress toward replacing the 74 year-old shelter.

At the Sept. 1 meeting, advocates criticized the lack of an animal behavioralist in euthanasia decisions and urged supervisors to allow a citizens’ oversight committee work with staff on studying shelter practices and collaborating on improvements.

That theme was hammered on again this week by activists.  They thanked supervisors for preventing a wolf dog named Karma from being killed, but said the problem is much more systemic.

“Karma the husky has shed light on the never-ending needless killings happening [in] Orange County.  So many dogs are being mislabeled as being aggressive or having behavioral problems,” said Stephanie Ellison, a Huntington Beach resident representing the No Kill Shelter Alliance.

“Orange County should strive to be a leader in animal care and protection. Instead we are quite the opposite.  We’re actually known as one of the worst in California.”

Ellison was one of four animal advocates who addressed supervisors Tuesday.  They waited most of the day – from 9:30 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. – for the opportunity to speak at Tuesday’s meeting.

Nik Peter said dozens of animals are killed at the shelter each week, many for “absurd and subjective reasons.”

“Last month, the favored justification that was used was alopecia, which is just hair loss, and a very non-life threatening disease for the animal, and very treatable”

His mother, Jacquelyn Peter, asked on behalf of the alliance that a citizens’ oversight committee be granted access to the animal department’s data, policies and procedures to see if they’re being followed.

The committee would also review the role of rescue groups in saving dogs, explore opportunities to raise revenue for the animal services department, and work on saving more animals’ lives.

“It’s imperative that we move toward a direction of pro-life, pro-adoption at the shelter, and we are committed, with the board’s help, to achieving this at the OC shelter,” Peter said.

Rose Tingle, meanwhile, reiterated that the county needs to establish multiple shelters across the county.

“Orange County is woefully behind when it comes to caring for animals,” she said.

Bartlett’s interest in the issue comes amid an increase in citizen advocacy recently at county supervisors’ meetings, which has led to stepped up county efforts to find a new animal shelter site and plans to place an ethics commission proposal on the ballot.

Click below for a video of the advocates’ comments, and Bartlett’s response, at the end of Tuesday’s meeting (starts at 1:55):

You can contact Nick Gerda at, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

  • Sharon Logan

    “It is the policy of this state that no adoptable animal should be euthanized if it can be adopted into a suitable home unless it has manifested a sign of behavorial, temperamental defect or a sign of disease, injury or congenital hereditary condition. The state policy is clear that unless one or the other of those exists there is no basis to euthanize the animals. We know that the OCAC like many municipal shelters for the reasons we just discussed, claiming lack of resources, but also because they simply become callous and let’s face it, if it’s a job that you do day in and day out, it doesn’t take you long to figure out that the less animals you have to be accounted for and take care of the less work you have.”

    “The law is the law, for the next two years as of the 10th of every month, I and Sharon will be receiving as the court designated people, a list and identification of all animals euthanized in that prior month and we can choose at random whatever 5 animals we want further documentation on, so we will be looking over their shoulder and I assure you quite carefully, and that should have at least some kind of effect on the people working there. This is a battle that we will have to continue to fight.”

    I think that in time, over a 2 year period, should have some effect on putting in place these procedures they have agreed to, learning to live with them and hopefully coming to the understand that doing it the right way produces more forever homes for these animals, and makes you feel better about yourself than doing it they way they have been doing it.”

    Howard Finkelstein, Attorney for Paw Protectors Rescue speaking on live on air radio
    October 08, 2015.

  • Jacki Livingston

    Really? Seriously? You can get these people off their pampered patoots for shelter dogs, but not for the elderly, disabled and abused nursing home patients in the County. Just fabulous. What a bunch of losers.

    • CitizensForAnimalShelterOC

      Jackie, with all do respect have you personally done anything about the elderly, disabled and abused nursing home patients in the County? The county has been promising to replace the shelter for close to 20 years and we have been in the trenches all this time. So far it has been nothing but lip service from the Board of Supervisors. Even after this BoS meeting, we still have not seen any concrete evidence. Day after day, animals suffer and/or killed in the dilapidated shelter simply because their owners chose not to care for them. Day after day, animal advocates/rescues have to deal with the atrocities imposed upon innocent little creatures, so much it brings grown men to tears.May God have mercy on all our souls for the pain “we” as a society have caused His Creation and shame, shame on the BoS for condoning it.The way you treat the lowest members of our community, says a lot about the community in general.

      • Jacki Livingston

        Why yes, I have “personally” done something for the elderly and disabled. I, working for SSA, had my entire career destroyed by the powers that be, because I refused to look the other way, while they rigged CalWin to double and triple bill the state (IE, YOU, the taxpayers). I also refused to stand and do nothing, while unscrupulous nursing home operators were not only abusing and killing their patients, but stealing their patient trust accounts, to the tune of millions of dollars. I, personally, got back a quarter of a million dollars for the HUMAN BEINGS, like the families of these patients, so they could save their homes and keep their kids in school during the recession. I, personally, went to Todd Spitzer, and the rest of his gang of hoodlums, and begged them to do something…ANYTHING…to put a stop to it. I brought them documents, emails and evidence that proved that CRIMES were being committed, with the help of people who are now high level officials. I, PERSONALLY, spent SIX YEARS being harassed, hounded, abused, assaulted and humiliated, while my reputation and my good name were ruined, so much so that I cannot get a job in my field. I, PERSONALLY, had my health suffer to the point of two mini strokes and destruction of my Systemic Lupus remission. I, PERSONALLY, went to Brock Zimmons and the Orange County Grand Jury, and to investigators for the DA, to show them this financial and patient abuse. I, PERSONALLY, testified three times, as well as giving evidence to the feds. I, PERSONALLY, had patient families sobbing, at my desk, thanking me for helping them. I personally lost everything that I had, my friends, my career and my health, and not one person that I turned to could put aside their politics and bribes and political war chests long enough to do anything for the HELPLESS HUMAN BEINGS that they referred to as “bean bags”, or to help me, while I watched a career that I worked very hard for go down the tubes. Then, I got to go to a rigged Worker’s Comp trial where Spitzer’s wife, Jamie, got his former client, who he was very close to, sit on my case and wedge out a cheap deal that they have not lived up to. Even now, they badmouth me to every potential employer, so not only can I not get any jobs in my field, but I cannot get hired at any job, with a college degree and twenty years of management experience. I am an animal lover, I have rescue pets, myself. But while you are giving your wee wittle prayers and crying in your cocoa for animals, and have the UNMITIGATED AUDACITY to ask me what I have personally done for the helpless human beings entrusted to the care of substandard nursing homes and a corrupt County regime, you might want to check yourself. Your turn.

        • CitizensForAnimalShelterOC

          Dear Jackie, all I did was ask you, you certainly sound like you have a right to be angry, but please don’t take it out on other activists who are fighting for other causes. You must realize there are many people who complain, but don’t make any attempt to change the system. “I stand by my girlhood readings of passages like Proverbs 31:8-9. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” For me, that will always include animals, those without a voice or witness. But I realize that we won’t always speak up for the same poor and needy; we won’t always defend the same set who can’t defend themselves. Still, whenever we see anyone speaking up for another, rather than seeing our causes in competition, let’s champion each other’s efforts for justice” Christianity Today. God Bless You.

          • Jacki Livingston

            Competition? There is no competition. People on life support, hooked up to machines, who cannot speak for themselves are not nearly as “sexy” or interesting a story as a wolf dog or puppies and kitties. You think that there is unlimited amounts of attention available, and that these public figures actually care about any of them. Puh-leeze. You are not seeing the whole picture. I spent fourteen years working for the County, hon, and God does not even enter into their way of thinking. These people were taking bribes and kickbacks, and had million dollar slush funds, which “disappeared” into their campaign war chests. If you really think that Todd Spitzer posing with a dog is going to do a thing to help your cause, then you are as hopeless an optimist as I was when I went to my superiors at SSA to tell them of this theft and abuse. The owners of the nursing home, Sun Mar, had to pay out a bunch of money in a lawsuit, but it was a tiny amount, given the death and abuse they inflicted on the patients. I wouldn’t put a dog in their facilities. And, in all honesty? I went to the churches. I went to the leading religious leaders of the county, as a last ditch effort to find one decent, honest, Christian person who would lift a finger to help. Not one…NOT ONE…would even hear it. Champion together? Really? What are YOU going to do to help ME? It is so easy to quote scripture…too easy. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it? But from this side, a disabled single woman who has to find a whole new life at 54, it pretty much rings hollow. I love animals. But I love humans first, including those that were my responsibility. I did what GOD commands, and I prayed long and hard. But in the end? No one was there for my cause. Not him, not you, no one. So please…stop patronizing. Words mean precisely NOTHING in the real world of the cesspool of County politics. The minute that the cameras are off, Toddykins will be off trying to save the whales or the bamboo trees or the fungus of the marsh. ANYTHING that gives him a photo op is his gig. You have no idea what you are in for.

  • Jacquelyn Rae

    The Angels for Animals Network that lists the dogs on Euthanasia List indicates the behavior. Savannah was 10 month old puppy who had “bratty” listed as a behavior. She was killed on 8-11-15. Many would agree this is an absurd and subjective evaluation. This is only one of the many absurd and subjective evaluations made by OC staff.
    Dante, killed the same day 8-11-15, he bit a hose that was hosing out his kennel. Which by the way is a violation of OC policy. OC has also been cited for this violation.
    Let the public decide.

  • Patty Dadamo

    “Nik Peter said dozens of animals are killed the shelter each week, many for absurd and subjective reasons.” I’d love to see proof of that.

    • The “proof” of that can be found at the statistics page for the shelter which is here - In 2014 nearly 10,000 animals were killed for an average of 191 per week. That’s the proof. Now what are you going to do about it?

      • Patty Dadamo

        About the euthanasia rate? Not much I can do.

        • You can adopt an animal from OCAC rather than buy one at a store. You can join one of the many groups that help adopt animals from OCAC and give them to homes. You can join many of the groups that are fighting to improve conditions at OCAC. You can join one of the many groups looking to find alternatives to OCAC. You can…

          • Patty Dadamo

            Jim, I walk dogs at OCAC. I haven’t bought a dog from a pet store since 1991 (we were still ignorant then). I have two dogs from an LA County shelter (adopted before I started volunteering at OC). I attend the community outreach committee meetings at the shelter every quarter. It was at those meetings that having an intervention program at OC was discussed. And discussed and discussed. Finally, over a year later, it’s in the hands of the lawyers. An intervention program will help owners keep their animals instead of surrendering them to the shelter. I plan to volunteer for that program. (I mention it because Stephanie Ellison told the Board of Supervisors the other day that OC lacks a program like that. They do but it’s in the works.) And, I’m going to volunteer for the Pet Adoption Center of Orange County once they open for business. I know you’re aware of that place. 🙂

          • So that’s a lot you’re doing about the euthanasia rate.

          • Patty Dadamo

            “You can join one of the many groups that help adopt animals from OCAC and give them to homes.”

            If anyone wants to volunteer for a rescue group that pulls dogs from OCAC, here are a few. You can find them on Facebook. They all desperately need fosters.

            Lovebugs Rescue, Leashes of Love Rescue, 4Life Animal Rescue, Saving Graces Rescue Foundation, Frosted Faces Foundation (seniors), K9 Spirit Organization, ALMA USA, American Maltese Association Rescue (nationwide), and Shamrock Rescue Foundation.
            The intervention program is OC Shelter Partners. And, don’t forget The Pet Adoption Center of OC!

  • Bob Brock

    Keep in mind the animal shelters in South County cherry-pick their animals taking the ones most likely to be adopted and booting the sick and injured animals to OCAC. It’s easy to be a no-kill shelter when you have somewhere to send the animals that no one will take.

    • LFOldTimer

      I don’t follow you. Let’s say an abandoned unadoptable dog is found wandering the streets of Irvine or Aliso Viejo which have their own shelters separate from OCAC. Are you claiming that Irvine dumps that animal off on OCAC? I don’t think OCAC is that stupid, do you? About a decade ago OCAC contract cities complained about non-OCAC cities dumping unwanted animals off on the Orange shelter resulting in County subsidized care. I heard OCAC put a quick stop to that. The animals are thoroughly screened upon arrival in Orange. If found in a non-OCAC city they get a one way ticket to the appropriate city’s shelter. If you know something different enlighten me.

      • Patty Dadamo

        I once saw a woman at the intake window at OC Animal Care insisting they take the stray dog she found in Irvine, OC refused and told her she had to take the dog to the Irvine shelter.

      • Bob Brock

        My mistake… I thought Mission Viejo and Irvine and others were “no-kill” shelters. I didn’t realize that they euthanize animals there.

        • The euthanasia rate at Irvine and MV is about 6%. Some animals are “put down” because they are medically impaired and suffering, and some are put down because they are too aggressive. Very few shelters anywhere are truly “no kill” and the Irvine and MV rates are about as “no kill” as you get. OCAC on the other hand for many years was above 50% and recently has gone in the 40% region.

    • Patty Dadamo

      The shelters in South County only take in animals from the cities they serve. If you find a stray dog in one of the cities that OC has a contract with, you have to take it to OCAC. If I find a stray in San Juan Capo, I can’t take it to the Mission Viejo shelter because that shelter only serves MV, Aliso Viejo and Laguna Niguel. Sometimes the MV shelter does take a few dogs from OCAS to give them a better chance at being adopted,

  • David Zenger

    Perhaps someone can inform the public what percentage of dogs are euthanized for “behavior” issues versus the number that are euthanized just because they are in the way.

    Karma the Wonder Wolf-dog is still a poster child!

    • According to the OCAC designation 12% are killed for behavior, 35% because they are “too young” (IOW – they kill puppies!!!!), 31% for medical, and 18% because the owner requested. This category “owner requested” is a false category because OCAC staff have to make a designation anyway. Not all “owner requested” are in fact killed.

      • David Zenger

        Thanks for that. “Too young” is a completely bullshit category. More people are likely to adopt a puppy.

        I’m really starting get the idea that this whole operation needs immediate and drastic intervention.

        I really feel bad for the animals at the pound and for the humans that have to work there. For the cost of one useless County Supervisor’s office budget we could save thousands of God’s creatures.

        • FWIW – the 3498 animals who were killed (35% of the total killed) because they were “too young” consisted of 3128 cats (hence kittens), 13 dogs (hence puppies), 19 rabbits, and 338 “other”..

          • David Zenger

            Presumably “too young” means it’s “too much trouble” to feed and tend new born and abandoned kittens.

          • LFOldTimer

            David, until the Council members start putting pressure on the city staffs to get serious about forming their own agencies and building their own shelters nothing will change. The councils wash their hands of it by assigning the staffs to coordinate with other cities and do analyses then nothing gets done. Months go by without a word. It’s a little game that the councils and staffs play together to fool the public. All the while the councils sit back figuring they’e done their civic duty on the matter and prepare to ask for our votes at election time ha.

  • LFOldTimer

    Don’t let Bartlett stroke you, animal advocates. The only reason she’s doing this is because she’s feeling heat from the So County cities that have indicated they are considering a complete withdrawal from OCAC to form their own animal agency and build their own shelter. So Bartlett is freaking out. If she really cared about the animals she would have taken a much greater interest in the animal care issue well before this time. She’s playing you like a fiddle for political purposes. OCAC is beyond repair – operationally and shelter-wise. For those of you who live in the OCAC contract cities your best bet would be to demand your cities to divorce OCAC and start your own agencies – or form coalitions with neighborhing cities for a multi-community animal care system. Otherwise you’re just going to get more of the same. But you are competing with the County (Supervisors) who are no doubt using every lousy behind closed doors knuckle-slapping trick in the book to convince the cities to stick with OCAC. Your voice and actions needs to be louder than theirs. If you lose you will continue to pay the premium rates for slipshod services and substandard inconvenient facilities for many years to come. Your choice.

    • David Zenger

      “The only reason she’s doing this is because she’s feeling heat from the
      So County cities that have indicated they are considering a complete
      withdrawal from OCAC to form their own animal agency and build their own

      Sadly, this has the ring of truth.