Gardner: Is OC Animal Care Cooking the Books?

Now you see it, now you don’t...

Anyone who visits the Orange County Animal Care (OCAC) website will find that it changes from week to week.

Only a few weeks ago, OCAC was listing the DOA (“dead on arrival”) animals as part of the animal “intake” or “impound”, which is a policy only OCAC uses. Why on earth would you include a dead animal as part of your intake?


For one good reason – by increasing your intake numbers, you make it appear that the rate at which you kill animals is much lower. If you kill 10,000 animals and you admit 30,000, your rate is 33%. But if those same 10, 000 animals are killed and you only admitted 20,000 animals, the real rate is 50%. Any way you look at it, 33% is better than 50%.

I caught this fuzzy math a few months ago and challenged OCAC to defend their math, given that no other shelter used such an outrageous method of computing their euthanasia rates. OCAC officials refused to respond, but in late December they removed these numbers from their website, and included a note to that effect.

But that’s not the only way they are trying to disguise their high kill rate. OCAC claims that there are nearly 2,000 animals who come into the shelter because their owners requested that their pets be killed. Apparently no one comes in to surrender their animals for any reason other than for them to be killed. Yet if you look at the OCAC owner surrender form, you’ll see that nowhere is there any place for the owner to request that their pet be killed. So how does OCAC know that these pets were surrendered to be killed?

Legitimate shelters have a specific place where owners can indicate that the surrender is a request for euthanasia. See the San Diego form for an example. But OCAC does not. Instead, the decision to euthanize the pet is made by the staff.

FWIW – The American Veterinarian Medical Association has a specific form that they recommend shelters use, as does the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

As far as I can tell, OCAC is the only shelter that does not have a specific form where owners can indicate that the reason for the surrender is to have their pet killed.

What difference does all this make?

  • Adding dead animals to beef up their intake numbers, and excluding the “owner requested euthanasia” dogs, yields a low euthanasia rate for dogs of only 9.6%.
  • The revised accounting gave up using dead animals. Yet one can’t pretend that all owners “requested” euthanasia on surrendered dogs, so to correctly report euthanasia the number climbs to 22.5% (as currently shown on the OCAC website).

The math is simple: ALL euthanized dogs divided by the live animals equals percent killed (2484/11,056 = 22.5%)

Saying that your euthanasia rate is only 9.6% is sure better than saying it’s 22.5%. And we’re talking about the euthanasia rate for dogs, which is historically about half of what it is for other animals.

This isn’t the only way that OCAC is reporting their data in a manner that makes it look like they’re doing a better job than reality suggests. A few months ago I reported that their claim to be getting more than 50% of dog owners to pay for licenses was exaggerated by some 20%+. OCAC did this by using 2010 population figures and 2014 licensing figures. Because Lake Forest’s population grew by some 3,000 people in those years, the true compliance rate was disguised. I challenged OCAC to demonstrate whether or not I was correct and they didn’t respond. Nor have they changed the data on their website, at least not yet.

OCAC is a public agency. Their data is used by the Board of Supervisors and by their 18 contract cities to make decisions. The high salaries that their people earn are paid for by taxpayers. For example, Steven A Franks, Director of Community Resources, who is in charge of OCAC, has total pay and benefits in excess of $300,000 according to TransparentCalifornia. Why are they allowed to misrepresent the data? How can elected officials be expected to make good decisions when the data they are being given is distorted?

Dr. Jim Gardner serves on the Lake Forest City Council. He is a long time animal advocate, organized the County’s “Seniors for Seniors” program and ran the “Pet Food Program” for more than 5 years, giving more than 250 tons of pet food to people with economic challenges.

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 Publisher Norberto Santana, Jr. at