OC Animal Volunteer beginning some basic obedience training. Credit: OC Animal Care Attendant H. Lopez

Protests such as the event scheduled for Saturday June 5th 2021, have devastating effects on the staff and volunteers who dedicate their time to the animals at OC Animal Care.  Those who work closely with the pets at the shelter develop low morale and compassion fatigue.  These issues are deadly within the animal welfare industry. OC Animal Care’s staff and volunteers pour their hearts into caring for so many animals, just to see protests in return. 

This letter touches on two subjects: TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return)/RTF (Return to Field), as well as time staff and volunteers get with the pets at OCAC.

Many people are not aware of a recent lawsuit against OCAC, brought forth by Sharon Logan:

The release of healthy cats back into the community should not be limited to just feral cats.  There have been instances of cats housed at OCAC which displayed decent behavior upon intake, yet became fractious after spending weeks in kennels. Some of these cats that end up under the shelter’s care are outdoor pet cats which simply hate being confined.  Cats like that should be eligible for RTF, not just feral cats going back home. Cats which are used to living outdoors, or a combination of indoors and outdoors, can suffer psychologically from being confined to a shelter environment. 

OC Animal Care Staff comforting and bonding with a singleton that came in. (Credit:  OC Animal Care’s Facebook page)

The staff and volunteers at OC Animal Care try so hard to help animals, truly they do. With visits to the shelter being by appointment only, staff and volunteers have more time to dedicate to the animals within the shelter.  With this extra time, they have been able to accomplish goals which wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.  For example, Cat Team staff and volunteers have been able to get a good handful of cats to come around, allowing those cats to be put up for adoption. This is a slow and steady process since cats have a strong sense of self and personality.  Additionally, Dog Team staff and volunteers have gotten a good handful of dogs more confident and comfortable with people. They take dogs for walks, yard time, pack walks (when possible), bathe dogs on hot days, groom them as needed, and so much more! Staff and volunteers have had more time to learn each animal’s personality since the pandemic started. They are all so dedicated to the dogs and public safety that they have talked several people into and out of adoptions knowing what potential adopters’ wants as well as the animals’ needs. Staff and volunteers work so hard to make sure the stressors which certain dogs have when coming into the shelter are addressed, this has only been possible due to the extra time they’ve had since the start of the pandemic.

OC Animal Care Staff doing an emergency shave down for little Rita. Shortly after these photos Rita was happily adopted into a family with another dog sister! Credit: OC Animal Care Attendant H. Lopez

 Since the public is not walking around the shelter and staff does not need to worry about customers’ safety, they are able to work more extensively with the dogs that have trust issues or are afraid of crowds. The shelter is not a petting zoo; the shelter has scared, confused, and fractious pets that need time to relax and unwind without members of the public walking around. Working with such pets with the facility open as it was pre-pandemic would be a public safety issue. These pets would not get the chance to open up and decompress as they do now.

With the shelter being closed to foot traffic from the public, staff and volunteers are able to go slow and steady with pets that are scared, neglected, and/or traumatized from their owners leaving them on the streets or unexpectedly at the shelter. 

OCAC staff and volunteers witness first hand the poor ways in which people treat their pets. Recently more and more pets have come to OCAC matted, dirty, and sickly. Staff are quick to stabilize these pets as effectively as they can. Some pets simply need a shave and bath, some need special food so their stomach can digest food without causing them to vomit. Looking into the pets eyes adds fuel to their fire spirits, they liven up again. Staff members are able to create bonds of trust, love, and understanding with these pets. It’s truly a beautiful thing. Staff and volunteers have videos and pictures of the pets improving and having fun through enrichment in and out of the kennel.

OC Animal Care Staff doing their daily enrichments, it was time for these handsome men to go for a walk. No matter the pace! Credit: OC Animal Care Attendant H. Lopez

Staff and volunteers of OCAC try their best to gain the trust of all pets.  Yet there are some pets that are too fearful, unsocialized, or have behavior issues that present with aggression; staff give the animals time to relax and adjust and they go as slow and easy to allow decompression time. Staff and volunteers gather as much information and materials to promote to rescues when the pets need more resources then the shelter can give. OCAC depends on rescue assistance with getting the resources these pets need. The average citizen is more willing to assist a rescue over “the pound”. 

Here is are some examples of rescues standing with or thanking the Staff and Volunteers of OC Animal Care: 

Boise Bully Breed Rescue

Boise Bully Facebook Watch

OC Shelter Cats

Here is a small bit of a poem that a staff member wrote:

We are who you need

No matter what they say

We will love you all, during your stay”

Left: Cali (A1618971) and OCAC Volunteer H. McDermott-Perez bonding. Cali is currently available for adoption. [Photo courtesy of OCAC Volunteer H. McDermott-Perez]
Right: Dodger (A1701248) currently available for adoption. [Photo courtesy of OCAC Volunteer R. Leigh]

 One of the lessons learned during the pandemic is the appointment based system works not only for the adopters but mostly for the animals in the shelter. They are no longer hyped up and “reactive” because of people in and out of the buildings constantly, plus staff and volunteers can get a better sense of what they need in a home to make it a lifelong commitment by their new family. Another program that would assist us with this is a well thought out foster program for dogs. The program was attempted in the past, but did not have the structure or guidelines needed to make it successful. 

We, the community, need to stand with the shelter, helping educate neighbors, and being supportive of each other. If every pet is capable of being, at the very least, microchipped they would just be a phone call away. Pets would not be at the shelter for long periods of time, owners would be notified as soon as the microchip is found. Keeping pets out of the shelter is the key, not because they are not loved and cared for, but because it can be a stressful environment for some, which could lead to adverse behavior manifesting. This can be done through education and working together to better the lives of the animals in all of Orange County.

If more people would seek the real truth and not be led around by those few rescues trying to get donation money and publicity for their personal gain, they would donate more to the REAL cause, donate to animal shelters, they are the boots on the ground people taking care of what society casts out, just to hear from people that claim to be “rescues” that OC Animal Care hate animals and they do nothing to enrich the lives of animals while waiting for the owner or new family to take them home. 

Thank you for reading.

Chance Lopez is a passionate OC Animal Care volunteer for 15 years, a parent to a wide range of fur-babies, a member of the community since 1990.

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