Orange County Animal Care — effectively backed by Orange County Supervisors Doug Chaffee, Katrina Foley, Vicente Sarmiento, Andrew Do and Donald P. Wagner — refuses to open its doors to the public.

Taxpayers aren’t allowed to tour certain kennel areas and interact with animals. If they’re looking to adopt, they have to make an appointment. And, with organized congestion that brings to mind Los Angeles traffic, see one animal at a time. Further, “managed intake” protocol continues, meaning fewer strays are taken in.

The agency’s rationale for staying closed, first activated at the outset of COVID-19, seems too silly to energize, but Public Information Officer Jackie Tran told me some dogs are not ready — or fit — for interaction with humans. It’s stressful, and dangerous. 

Never mind that they’re in cages and humans might be the highlight of their day. Never mind that interaction might start them on the road to socialization, increasing their rehoming potential.

When a government group with a $25 million-a-year budget and $35 million facility (according to insists on shutting its blinds, citizens tend to get suspicious. Animal rights advocates might feel it in their stomachs; they know more dogs and cats are being euthanized instead of adopted out. That’s borne out by Animal Care’s own stats: The kill rate for adult dogs, for instance, has tripled since the shelter closed four or five years ago.

“Did OC Animal Care take their appointment system too far by completely blocking all access to the general public to walk through the kennels and see the animals? Absolutely,” said Sharon Logan, a local animal rights activist quoted in the Voice of OC.

Then there’s the principle of accountability. Picture your local city hall staying closed years after a public health crisis, when that crisis is not over but waning. Business done by appointment only. Access — on the ground, that means face to face conversations — severely restricted, making it almost impossible to assess the effectiveness of a government operation for which we’re paying. 

OC Animal Care: Open the facility. Orange County Supervisors: Thousands of us in Fullerton, Anaheim, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Seal Beach and every other city in the county are watching, and we vote.

The entrance to OC Animal Care, 1630 Victory Road in Tustin. Those seeking to adopt pets at Animal Care are required to make appointments. Animal Care leaders refuse to fully open the facility to the public. It has been closed since the outset of COVID-19. Credit: Brady Rhoades

Brady Rhoades is a career journalist, fiction author and animal rights activist. He lives with his wife and dog in Fullerton.

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