Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Kindly? Or "Good Enough"?

A depositary of living animals shall provide the animals
with necessary and prompt veterinary care, nutrition, and shelter,
and treat them kindly.               California Civil Code Section 1834

The “depository of living animals” for Costa Mesa is the Orange County Humane Society located in Huntington Beach.  The  City of Costa Mesa currently contracts with OCHS for animal shelter services.  OCHS used to provide shelter services to the City of Newport Beach. Too, until Newport abruptly cancelled the contract late last year (DP articles here and here).      

In a December 22, 2015 report, Newport Beach staff noted unsanitary conditions.  The report also stated that “Animal Control Officers frequently found animals soaked“ due to the practice of hosing out kennels with the dogs remaining in the kennels.  The Newport Beach report also cited poor record keeping and failure to implement State of California requirements for spay/neuter. 

After  touring the OCHS shelter a number of times, I also had concerns.  The level of cleanliness left a lot to be desired.  One of the buildings was dark and had minimal ventilation.  Dogs and cats were housed in close proximity, increasing stress for all the animals.  Overall, the situation did not look very “kindly”.


After speaking with current and former volunteers at OCHS my concerns increased.  Unfortunately, volunteers are fearful of talking on the record, as they will then be “fired” as volunteers.  In fact, the rules for volunteers impose a gag order.

Some shelters celebrate each adoption.  Some shelters post a list of animals slated for euthanization, upon which people spring into action, posting pleas on facebook,  calling friends, trying to find a home for the unfortunate animal.  At OCHS volunteers arrive to find animals gone.  OCHS  rules state “I will not [sic] question their whereabouts nor speak amongst others regarding their status.”  Wow!


No such limitation on Yelp.  OCHS received only two stars, the lowest rated animal shelter in Orange County.  Eighteen of the thirty-two reviews gave the facility only one star, the lowest rating possible.  Reviewers cited rude staff, lack of cleanliness, provision of inadequate/inaccurate medical records, and adoption of animals subsequently found to be unhealthy.  One reviewer said they saw an OCHS  staff member kick a small dog.

Where’d they go?

Each year,  our animal shelter data  is required to be submitted to the California Department of Public Health.   Costa Mesa’s annual reports show total animals coming in from various sources each year significantly higher than animals going out each year except 2010, when things about balanced.  In fact, from 2009 through 2014, records show about two thousand (2,000) more animals coming in than are accounted for going out via adoption, owner redemption, euthanasia, etc. 

This may simply be poor record keeping.  On the other hand, maybe animals are escaping to wander the streets.  What if the euthanasia rate is being masked?  Other worse, scenarios come to mind.  In that case, I’m hoping it’s just poor record keeping.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Because of the large number of animals entering the system from  Costa Mesa, our options are limited to larger facilities.  At one time Costa Mesa contracted with the City of Irvine, but that was discontinued a few years ago.  Orange County is preparing to build a new shelter, but it could be costly to participate in that, and the Orange County Grand Jury indicates that they have problems of their own, from the existing rundown facility to inadequate staffing.  We might be able to join with a few other cities to build a local shelter, if a site could be found.

Or should we continue at OCHS? 

Months ago, in response to my concerns, a staff member indicated that people in Irvine and Newport Beach were more “picky”.  I was told that OCHS was “good enough for Costa Mesa”.  Do you agree?

The City Council will be discussing the issue this evening, March 15.

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