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

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    Excellent insight, food for thought. Thank you Dr. Gardner.

    Free spay and neuter. Our taxes should pay for spay/neuter for any and all in Orange County. It would be the very right thing to do to prevent the tragedy of too many animals and not enough good homes.

    • LFOldTimer

      “Free spay and neuter. Our taxes should pay for spay/neuter for any and all in Orange County”
      I wouldn’t go quite that far. Pet owners should spay or neuter their own animals.Owning a pet is a personal choice. I don’t think people should expect me to pay to fix their dogs any more than I would expect people to pay the insurance premiums on my car. It’s not that expensive for a spay or neuter. Some private clinics charge as little as $50. Pet owners need to be responsible for their own choices.

      • UnitedWeStand

        “We” pay for the animals at the shelter to be euthanized so wouldn’t it be better to pay for them to be spay/neutered?

        • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

          Amen! Cheaper in the long run. They should not be considered property like a garbage bag. The greater good for our County society would be for We the People to invest in easy, least free for all, enjoy your new family member, do not worry about oops, spay and neuter for all. That new laser technique would be an additional good use of our money. Note: Laser technique was used on desert tortoises last year. Hard shells and all. Wow!

  • David Zenger

    P.S. Steve Franks only reflects the system that he operates in. And he reflects it very well.

  • David Zenger

    I can’t think of any human so low as to positively request that their animal be killed, particularly for no good reason. That’s all BS, and a sure sign of government monkey business.

    Oh, well, thank God for Karma the Wonder-Wolf dog, who proved just how much we care.

    Seriously, thanks again, Jim. Somebody is sticking up for those who can’t hire lobbyists.

    • LFOldTimer

      “I can’t think of any human so low as to positively request that their animal be killed, particularly for no good reason. That’s all BS, and a sure sign of government monkey business”
      Spot on. Most of us grow deep emotional attachments to our pets. Do we share the planet with sociopaths. Of course. But they’re a very small segment of the population. If for some reason a person or a family could not take care of their animal – they would give it to a rescue group or find a new owner. But certainly not turn it over to death row. However, I would wonder about the emotional and mental makeup of those in positions of public trust who might allow erroneous data on animal euthanasia rates and licensing compliance rates shown to the public on government websites without publicly acknowledging their errors and apologizing for it. It’s unamerican. At least it used to be. But maybe we’ve jumped the shark as a society. If so, I’m darned glad that I’m as old as I am.

  • LFOldTimer

    “How can elected officials be expected to make good decisions when the data they are being given is distorted?”
    Don’t you think that perhaps the reason for the flawed data was to provoke poor decision-making by elected officials which go in favor of OCAC and the County of Orange? It gives the electeds who are politically tied to the County an excuse too (e.g. – “Well I thought the data was accurate when I voted to (fill in the blank).” How long ago did you discover this flawed data? Months ago? And, to date, none has been corrected? ha. Doesn’t that give you your first clue. It’s possible that they prefer for the people and for the electeds to be misinformed in favor of their Agency. Oh, and be careful when they finally make the corrections. My guess is that they’ll use new flawed methods and formulas to game it. Don’t be fooled again. Thank you for paying attention.

  • UnitedWeStand

    Geesh! Prevention and education!!!!! For EXAMPLE……………….A msg from Cesar Millan;


    “Everybody gets really excited when the puppies are born. Then the puppies are walking all over place, peeing, pooping. They need to explore, and people see that as a destructive behavior,” Millan said. “No longer viewed as cute, the pups often become neglected or homeless — yet free to produce more puppies.

    It takes a nation to prevent such a sad reality,” Millan said. “I want
    ALL OF US to join in this preventive movement that should be worldwide. We must begin in America.”

    “Hispanics, like many other cultures, pride themselves on being respectful to nature, but sometimes we inherit cultural beliefs that don’t necessarily add up to progress. For example, in our culture, some believe that if we get our dogs spayed or neutered their value is decreased or diminished, they won’t be protectors of our homes, or they are going to feel bad about themselves or ashamed because they don’t have their reproductive apparatus. I’ll admit that I believed that when I first came to America, but I learned, I educated myself, and now it’s my desire to spread that awareness.
    I would love for my Hispanic community to put that idea aside just for a moment, completely clear it out of their mind, so they can hear a message that can change and save millions of lives: the problem with pet overpopulation can be solved by our participating and adopting spay and neuter programs in our communities. The benefits to the health of our dogs physically and mentally will be noticeable and impactful. Allow your heart to lead your thoughts because this is when we make all things possible. We always want to know what we can do for others – this is a part of our culture, the “how can I help you” – so why not ask, “how can we help our dogs (and cats) and community as a whole?” Join me and together let’s find another way to make history.”

    In this PSA video, a family surrounds a dog (or cat)
    that has given birth. Then the father takes a bundle from the mother dog (or
    cat) and dumps it in the street. Colorful balls represent the puppies (kittens)
    that face sad circumstances or death.

    • LFOldTimer

      I got my dog neutered at a very young age – about 6 months. I don’t think he remembered or noticed a difference. However, at times he does growl at me for no apparent reason. So who knows?
      I think we would do the human race a favor if we neutered selective members of our own species. But that would be considered inhumane.

      • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

        I must agree! Although it is not a very polite wish.