Supervisors’ Promise on Animal Shelter Rings Hollow

A dog that at one point was in the Orange County Animal Shelter. (Photo credit unknown)

A dog that at one point was in the Orange County Animal Shelter. (Photo credit unknown)

 

Rose Tingle is an Orange County-based animal rights activist.

The Orange County case on Karma, the alleged hybrid wolf/dog created a media firestorm. After O.C. Judge reversed his order last week to have Karma euthanized, jubilation by animal lovers from Orange County and literally around the world, followed. You can read the details here.

By convincing two of his four colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, Bartlett and Steele, Supervisor Spitzer led the way to go back to the judge and reverse the order to euthanize. Supervisor Nelson and Do declined to change their vote. (Interesting since Do’s and Nelson’s district currently have the highest number of animals euthanized at the OC Animal Shelter.)

More importantly was Spitzer’s comment to an animal advocate that he “is committed to changing the OC Shelter System.”

Wow!

We want to believe you, Mr. Spitzer. We really do. Voters like politicians who keep their word but you made a similar statement the last time you served on the Board of Supervisors. Little changed and then you moved up to the California State Assembly where your record earned you an “F” on the Humane Scorecard for voting against animal protection bills.

It’s now been over a month since the protest by animal activists in front of the county Hall of Administration in Santa Ana. Too many years of failed promises to build a new animal shelter at the old Tustin Air base property had passed (20 years) and animals were suffering in a place which was to provide them with humane care.

But it was during the ensuing Board of Supervisors meeting when the most damming evidence of the neglect, the blistering Orange County Grand Jury Report was up for discussion and activists spoke out. Supervisor Spitzer in response directed the CEO, Frank Kim, Shelter Director Jennifer Hawkins and Community Resources Director, Steve Franks to come up with a timeframe for alternate locations for a new shelter and also a recommendation for a “public body” oversight committee for the current 74-year-old shelter.

However, since that day, activists have been requesting almost daily to meet with Mr. Spitzer. Requests to meet with Franks and Hawkins on the parameters of an oversight committee have been rejected. Animal advocates are not getting a warm fuzzy feeling. In fact, activists including myself were “scolded” by the county Public Information Manager for our activism and advised a meeting would take place on an invitational basis.

Meanwhile a $4 million to $6 million debt between the county and the 18 cities which contract with the county for animal services has come to light. The county states it’s a bookkeeping matter and will not affect the care of the animals.

Will the county write it off?

Last year, when the animal shelter experienced a financial shortfall, the Board of Supervisors would not help. After pleas from animal advocates to keep the shelter running, the OC Board of Supervisors chose to raise the fees to pet owners, animal- related businesses and contract cities rather than have the county cover the shortfall.

How will this debt be resolved without it affecting the operations at the shelter?

Then at the Sept. 22 Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Nelson asked the county’s real estate chief to look at the eight acres of vacant county-owned land next to the Registrar of Voters on Grand Ave. in Santa Ana.

Proposed site for possible animal shelter next to Registrar of Voters

Proposed site for possible animal shelter next to Registrar of Voters

However, I have documentation the county already looked at that same property back in 2009 and found it “less desirable” and “being considered for alternative county projects.”

I even visited said property this past weekend and found it inaccessible from any street. So why is the county wasting our time and taxpayer money???

According to the Board of Supervisors agenda for today (Tuesday, Oct. 6), the supervisors will be meeting in closed session to conference with the Chief Real estate Officer on this subject property. However, the California Attorney General states the purpose of closed session is “to protect a local agency’s bargaining position, not to keep confidential its deliberations as to the wisdom of the proposed transaction.”

I remind the Public Information Office as well as the OC Board of Supervisors, they are accountable to the electorate of this county, as indicated in the County of Orange Organizational Chart.

I’d like to believe you are sincere, Supervisor Nelson. I really would, but as I have reported, you stated the county changed its mind before on a previous promised location for an animal shelter — the county property south of the Great Park which is commonly called the 100 acre site.
So I encourage all the contract cities to withdraw from contracting with the county for animal services and join with neighboring cities to build a pro-humane and conveniently located shelter of their own, just as the city of Mission Viejo did, 20 years ago.

In fact, when I see shovel hitting dirt, that’s when I will believe the county supervisors are sincere and are building a new animal shelter. Until then, it’s all lip service.

Final note: I visited the Orange County Animal Shelter again this weekend. There were many wonderful animals there available for adoption, but not enough staff present to help “customers.” It is heartbreaking to see these “little animal faces” begging to be loved and adopted and are only there because their owners chose to not care for them.

After reading the recent OC Register article on Orange County’s richest making the Forbes 400 list, I wished some of our well-healed residents and/or Board of Supervisors campaign donors would step up and help these innocent animals.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC Engagement Editor Julie Gallego at jgallego@voiceofoc.org.