I have been involved with several animal welfare organizations across the country since 1992. I have served as a volunteer, a paid volunteer coordinator, foster care administrator, a Board of Directors member, and any other roles that the organizations needed me to fill. Helping homeless animals has been a passion my entire life.
This includes volunteering at Orange County Animal Care (OCAC) for several years. I resigned in 2020 due to concerns about shifts in shelter policies and procedures when the current administration was put in place. This includes, but is not limited to, changes in the adoption process implemented during the pandemic years and now being presented as “best practices”. Those policies require appointments, limit animals that can be met, and require they be selected from a website that, for the majority of animals, only offers the basics of breed, sex, and often lack a written description of the animal which further limits the potential for properly matching adopters with compatible companion animals. I believe these policies are contributing to declining performance of OCAC in serving the county and the animals under their care as evidenced by the following.
- The length of stay for adult dogs and cats increased from 13.5 days in 2019 to 21.6 days in 2022 (up 60%), thereby increasing the risk of euthanasia. This is further exacerbated by discontinuing playgroups for large dogs and the Trap-Neuter-Release program for cats, both which had shown very positive results in prior years.
- The rate of euthanasia for adult dogs more than doubled between 2019 and 2022 even though there was a 28% decrease in the number of adult dogs taken in. Through April, more than 50 dogs have already been euthanized this year, and more lives are lost each day we continue accepting the status quo.
- The return rate from shelter adoptions increased for both cats and dogs 2019 to 2022.
Lastly, I would like to address comments made by Fifth District Supervisor Katrina Foley in the OC Register article on 5/31/2023. She dismisses concerns raised by animal rescues and advocates, stating “This is a philosophical debate about how animal shelters should be operated.” With all due respect it is not a “philosophical debate” but presents a clear example of animal cruelty as defined in a court hearing on the subject. The following is just one example of six that were detailed in testimony of an expert witness (see references for full document).
OCAC Violates its Duty to Provide Animals with Statutorily Required Care
Civil Code #1846(b) provides that:
“A gratuitous depository of a living animal shall provide the animal with necessary and prompt veterinary care, adequate nutrition and water, and shelter, and shall treat it humanely … Any gratuitous depository that does not have sufficient resources or desire to provide that care shall promptly turn the animal over to an appropriate care facility.”
The petitioners have uncovered evidence of OCAC’s multiple, gross violation of these statutes.
Petitioners present the testimony of an expert witness who received records of animals in need of medical attention while at OCAC. This was presented by Dr. Cosko, a licensed veterinarian practicing in CA since 1987 who holds a Bachelor of Science degree for veterinary Science, a Masters degree in Veterinary Forensics, and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, in addition to being an attorney admitted to practice in CA. She currently practices veterinary medicine at her own hospital in CA. In her deposition, Dr. Cosko presents her opinion as to whether two subject animals received necessary and prompt medical care while in custody at OCAC.
- The first is that of a Siberian Husky [#A1780202, “Spirit” for purposes of this synopsis]. He was taken to OCAC on August 25, 2022 after apparently being hit by a car and badly injured. Despite being in obvious need of major medical treatment, he was tragically left unattended, bleeding from his scrotum, and suffered a slow and painful death after succumbing to his injuries three days later.
- Spirit presented with terrible injuries-unable to stand, and with a swollen limb and severe swelling. Despite these incredibly painful conditions, he was not given even remotely adequate pain medication; what was given “potentially helped for 6-8 hours…thus leaving him to suffer the remaining 16-18 hours of each day”.
- Dr. Cosko opines that the OCAC’s medical records fell short of what is required by Code of Regulations. Due to OCAC’s improper recordkeeping, Dr Cosko was unable to confirm whether he was seen by a veterinarian. The appearance of these records indicate that only a registered vet tech performed the examination, diagnosed, prognosticate and prescribed for him-all of which is illegal in CA. If Spirit was seen by a veterinarian, he or she completely missed obvious signs that his pelvis was fractured on both sides, which is a far more devastating and dangerous injury than the notion of a hip dislocation. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Cosko opines that OCAC failed to provide Spirit with “necessary or prompt veterinary care”.”
The status quo with existing management practices of OCAC is not serving the taxpayers or homeless animals of Orange County. The above data points to decreasing performance, but history shows that performance can be better given the right policies and management. I propose we put new management in place that has knowledge and experience in humane animal welfare policies and practices, and we encourage them to make full use of available resources to turn performance back toward positive trends. This should include partnering with respected animal welfare organizations like Humane Society US, ASPCA, Best Friends, etc., including auditing and recommendations for improvement. They are qualified to assess OC shelter policies/practices and recommend real best practices based on a wealth of facts and data collected across many municipal shelters across the nation. These entities have developed innovative programs focused on saving more lives while operating efficiently and effectively in a shelter environment. Orange County taxpayers and pets under OCAC care deserve no less.
Graphs provided by Michael Mavrovouniotis
Jackie Lamirande, Resident and Taxpayer of Orange County
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