Vergil is an energetic, happy go lucky dog, who can be seen in OC Animal Care's Kennel Connection program. Humphreys will entertain you all day with his antics.  He is a great water dog, and loves lounging in his kiddie pool. Gambit is the superstar you saw recently on KTLA news.  His zest for life is so infectious. Credit: OCAC Volunteer, Stacey Miller.

OC Animal Care is continuing to provide incorrect and misleading numbers.  Are they purposely misrepresenting their data?  Their 2023 statistics were shown to be fabricated.  The shelter was forced to retract them and stated: “An incorrect version of the 2023 1st Quarter Shelter Statistics report was posted on April 26, 2023. It has been replaced with the correct information as of 8/11/2023.” 

Are the revised data reliable?  Not in the least.  The county was told that shelter statistics fail industry standards and elementary accounting.   An attempt to balance the checkbook for 2023 1st Quarter statistics shows that the shelter ends up with 24 fewer dogs and 22 fewer cats than, by its own numbers, it should have.  What happened to them?

The shelter must still be working on getting its story straight and won’t show us any statistics for the 2nd Quarter of 2023.   What are they hiding?

This is not the first time OCAC has been caught misrepresenting their data.  There is a pattern.  The shelter’s claims are routinely detached from reality.  Ironically, the worst offender is its “Fact Check” document which, as you will see, is far from factual.   

• OCAC says it’s “seeing an increase of animals coming to the shelter”.

Fact: The number of animals entering the shelter dropped during the pandemic.  It’s now gradually returning to normal.  The annual 2022 intakes are well below 2019 (25% fewer dogs, 35% fewer cats).  The 1st Quarter 2023 intakes are below the 1st Quarter 2019 intakes (14% fewer dogs, 38% fewer cats).  

The shelter has to handle fewer animals post-pandemic (2022-2023) than it did pre-pandemic (2019).  Its job should be easier.  The only reason for the shelter’s troubles is mismanagement.  

• OCAC claims that in 2021 it “collaborated with hundreds of rescues and shelters resulting in the successful placement of over 4,000 various animals”

Fact: In 2021, by its own reports, the shelter transferred about 2,000 dogs & cats and 1,300 other types of animals, for a total of about 3,300.  Can the shelter explain the 700 unaccounted transfers?  Obviously the shelter is undisciplined with tracking what happens to the animals in its care.  

• OC claims that “While across the nation the average length of stay has skyrocketed, the average length of stay for animals at OCAC is 11 days.”  

Credit: Michael Mavrovouniotis.

Fact: The length of stay is the average number of days an animal spends at the shelter.  It matters because shorter stays mean lower costs and less stress for the animals.  We know that in 2022 the shelter took in 4,251 dogs.  If each dog stayed 11 days then the average number of dogs at the shelter on any given day should be 4,251×11÷365, which is 128.  That’s not even close.  The shelter typically housed over 200 dogs on any given day in 2022.  The beginning and ending counts in the shelter statistics always have more than 200 dogs.  It’s been documented that, as a result of ineffective adoption procedures, dogs and cats are staying longer with negative consequences for animal welfare and for the taxpayer.  

• In order to justify preventing adopters from visiting the kennels, OCAC claims a “reduction in return rate through improved pet-to-family matching”; elsewhere it claims “the adoption-by-appointment system has decreased the animal rate of return, demonstrating that the focused attention on each adoption is making the right match”.

Credit: OCAC Annual Statistics

Fact: The return rate is the fraction of adopted animals that are returned.  At the height of the pandemic (2020-2021), the favorable return rate was driven by the same lifestyle changes that kept intakes low.  The failure of the shelter’s inadequate adoption procedure was revealed in 2022:  Based on the shelter’s own data, in 2022 adopted animals were returned more often than in 2019.   In 2022, 14.1% of adopted dogs were returned, vs 12.5% in 2019.  For cats, it’s 6.0% in 2022 vs 4.6% in 2019.  In 2023, the return rate is continuing to climb.  (Data on adoptions comes from the shelter’s official statistics, and data for returns from county Public Records.)

• OCAC claims “maintaining [its] terrific save rate” and that its “nearly 95% save rate for dogs exceeds the benchmark called in the OCAC Strategic Plan”.  

Credit: OCAC Annual Statistics

Fact: The shelter’s save rate has been on a steady decline, and its kill rate on a steady rise, from 2020 onward, as reported elsewhere.  Compared to 2019, in 2022 the kill rate is 65% higher for dogs and 39% higher for cats.  

As for the Strategic Plan, OCAC is cherry picking.   It doesn’t mention that the 2022 save rate for cats was 73.6%, well below the Strategic Plan target of 85%.  

This is one of many areas where the shelter falls way short of key priorities in the Strategic Plan.  That’s why the Strategic Plan is carefully hidden from the public.  Shouldn’t it be on the shelter’s website?

The recent Grand Jury report was highly critical of OCAC.  The response from OCAC and the Board of Supervisors was a weak and woeful denial of the array of issues and concerns observed by the Grand Jury.  

Instead of addressing the underlying problems, OCAC just makes misleading claims, which it is unable to back up with any details or data.  The public mistrust is justified (LawtherSchumacherLamirandeRhoadesFullerton Observer).   

The Board of Supervisors should order an outside audit to review all of the shelter’s numbers and implement the Strategic Plan.  

[Note:  The OCAC claims quoted here can be found in the document “OCAC Fact Check Summer 2022.pdf” copied from the shelter’s website.]

Debbie BarbaYorba Linda resident.  Retired AT&T Vice President, with 33 years of business, technology and customer service experience.  Service to the public on the Board of Directors of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics and Junior Achievement.  Extensive animal shelter volunteering in California, as well as Hawaii and Arizona.

Opinions expressed in community opinion pieces belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please email

Since you've made it this far,

You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.