Cities have been fleeing from the Orange County shelter for the past several years. At one point the County provided services for two dozen cities, but beginning in 2017 they will be down to 16, and possibly less. Rancho Santa Margarita and Laguna Hills recently announced their defection. Garden Grove and Huntington Beach are still on the fence, and Tuesday night Lake Forest spent 3 hours debating the issue.

The Council chambers was standing room only, and every one of more than a dozen Lake Forest residents urged the Council to vote for the alternative proposal, which would provide local animal control, local Veterinary services, and a local adoption center.

Neither the City staff nor the OC Animal Shelter Director could provide any answers to some relevant questions about the 10 year contract that the County proposed.

-How much will Lake Forest have to pay for construction costs?

-Why is it that Lake Forests’ costs keep rising (between 2.5% and 5% per year) even though their admissions and field services keep declining (7% to 11%) every year?

-How much will Lake Forest pay for the basic services?

-In light of the promises to do a better job (e.g. add more staff, increase training) how will this impact the costs of services?

The questions were met with blank faces from City and County staff. No one had any idea – any idea at all.

The self-described fiscally conservative Gang of 3 who control the Council (Voigts, Hamilton, Robinson) didn’t bat an eye as it was apparently clear that they were virtually writing a blank check to the County for the next 10 years. And this was being done with no accountability.

-Suppose the OC shelter continues to kill nearly 40% of the animals every year?

-Suppose the OC shelter continues to kill thousands of kittens and puppies?

-Suppose the OC shelter continues to present false information about their critical services?

The alternative was to issues RFPs to get local animal control, local Veterinary service, and a local adoption center. At this and previous meetings, more than a dozen prospective bidders had testified, and all indications were that the local service would provide better service, better care, with a non kill philosophy. In addition, the dollars would stay at home.

The Gang of 3 voted 3:2 to stay with the County. The vote didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The Gang of 3 has been opposed to virtually any changes for which they have not received funds from special interests. In the area of animal care, the Gang

-Allowed a developer to remove a dog park from their plans, even though it was in the Development Agreement.

-Voted against a Dog Park Committee and any improvements to the dog park

-Voted against an Animal Welfare Commission

-In December 2015 ordered the staff to stop looking for any alternatives to using the County shelter.

As a result of their vote, Lake Forest will be one of only two cities in the entire Southern Orange California area to stay with the County. From Costa Mesa and Newport Beach down to San Clemente and Dana Point, almost every city has their own service or contracts with a neighbor.

Despite the expectations, the animal advocates who remained in the chambers well after 11 pm before the final vote was taken, were infuriated. They called the actions of the Gang “disgusting” and disparaged the City staff for their poor report. They were horrified that they chose to stay with Orange County, where the greatest single way to leave the shelter is by death, and where thousands of kittens and puppies are killed every year.

Dr. Jim Gardner serves on the Lake Forest City Council. He is a long time animal advocate and can be found on Facebook.  Share your thoughts about the City at Lake Forest Town Square. His comments are not meant to reflect official City Policy.

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 Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at

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