Another Year, Another Failing Grade for Sutter Co Pound

Image of cat #A095149 at Sutter Co AC as pictured on

The Sutter County Animal Control shelter in CA has been in the ditch for years.  This is not a matter of opinion but rather the conclusion drawn by multiple reports on the pound.  In 2007, the county paid a consulting firm called Citygate more than $55 grand for an evaluation of the place.  They got a thorough report for their money, chock full of recommendations and timetables for implementation (many were immediate).  Subsequent evaluations have found that the recommendations have been largely ignored.  There has been ongoing discussion about the need for a new building but as the evaluations note, moving failed practices into a new building does nothing to save pets’ lives.  Last year, the grand jury issued its own findings and concluded:

If current upper management does not take action immediately to address many of the findings listed in the CITYGATE ASSOCIATE LLC Management Review as well as the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Report, the success of constructing a new state of the art Animal Shelter will be for naught. If Sutter County Management would have followed the recommendations listed in the CITYGATE review thousands of animals would have been saved and could have possibly been adopted. As such, the $55,775 the Community Services Director paid for this report was wasted and could have gone a long way toward improving the Shelter.

The most recent report, issued by a veterinarian just 2 months ago, finds that many of the problems repeatedly cited over the years remain and in fact, some have worsened.  While intakes have increased since 2007 by 14%, the pound is killing 52% more animals and adoptions are down 5%.  One of the many long term problems at the pound is the alarming number of pets falling over dead in their cages.  That number has gone down by 18% over the last 5 years but it’s still 70 times higher than the state average.

A 2011 report by the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program noted that the average time it took dogs to die in their cages at Sutter Co was 8 days which indicated a “shelter-acquired fatal condition and/or prolonged suffering”. Cats who died in their cages at Sutter Co took an average of 9 days to die. “More cats died in their cages than were adopted.”

The 2011 report also indicated the manager was keeping newborn pups in the kill room, waiting for them to reach the appropriate age for adoption. Live animals were reportedly routinely housed in the kill room. The staff was insufficiently trained in disease prevention protocols to the point that they didn’t even know how to operate the disinfectant switch and were sometimes turning it off before hosing out kennels. Cages were cleaned with animals still inside. For dogs who were unable to use their automatic waterers, licking the waste-contaminated water mixed with disinfectant off the concrete floor was their only source of hydration.

Sick dogs were housed with healthy ones. Cats were kept in tiny cages – so small that they were considered “cruel” even for short-term use. The cat cages were “not thoroughly cleaned ever”. Rodent infestation was out of control.

The facility is in a terrible state of disrepair. In order to clean the outside portion of the indoor/outdoor dog runs or access any dogs in the outdoor part of the run, workers must actually crawl through the dog doors themselves.

No identification was placed on the pets and multiple identical looking animals were often housed in the same cage making oops-kills likely.

There’s more, much more.  But you get the idea.

Every report on the Sutter Co facility outlines failings at every level.  Lack of training, lack of shelter industry standard operating procedures, and lack of basic care directly result in the needless suffering and deaths of thousands of animals every year.  And year after year, report after report, the facility fails to implement the sweeping changes needed for meaningful reform.  Likewise, the county fails to hold the pound accountable and taxpayers are left paying for a house of misery for the community’s pets.

Gee, I wonder what next year’s report on the Sutter Co pound will say.

(Note:  This link provides copies of several of the reports on the pound and is 365 pages long.  I did not read through to the end.  As far as what I saw, the only extremely disturbing image is “Exhibit D” found on page 22.  The other images I saw are your standard pound misery fare.)

9 thoughts on “Another Year, Another Failing Grade for Sutter Co Pound

  1. The behavior of this local government seems problematic in the extreme. The original consultants’ report was commissioned by the county department that oversees the shelter. But after none of the resulting recommendations were implemented, a citizen complained to whoever is a conduit to the county’s grand jury, and the grand jury investigated. According to the grand jury report, “While conducting our investigation, the Grand Jury was made aware of other problems; some of them long standing, which seem endemic at the facility. County employees, past employees, and professionals in animal care and the community at large all recognize the need for change in this County Department and express hope that the Board of Supervisors will step forward to exercise their oversight responsibility.”

    So it seems that the county supervisors — i.e., the local politicians — are the issue. They are not demanding better of the shelter staff, and without the supervisors taking action, the shelter staff know they can keep doing the same things.

    If the supervisors aren’t even doing their jobs when there are lives at stake in a high-scrutiny arena such as the animal shelter, it makes you wonder what else they aren’t doing right. These problems never exist in a vacuum.

  2. Why aren’t these places ever charged with animal cruelty? Why are there never any consequences for animals shelters who abuse/neglect animals like there would be for a private citizen? Is the message here “If you are a county animal shelter, its perfectly all right to abuse/neglect animals.”

    I know that a lot of people do love animals, but its sad to see how many people are still out there who have no compassion whatsoever for life.

    1. I wonder the same thing. If its a human who does this to his pet, its animal abuse (and rightfully so), yet when a shelter does it there always seems to be an excuse (not enough workers or money, bla bla). Animal abuse is animal abuse.

  3. I did not see any updated listings on Petharbor since February 1 for the Lost dogs and since January 25 for the Adoptable dogs.

    Not all of their adoptable dogs are Pit Bulls either as I saw a Poodle, 2 Chis, and a couple of Labs.

    Why don’t these shelters contract out their animal services with someone that can do a much better job?

  4. It is very clear this so called shelter does not care about any of these animals and the people who keep giving them a failing grade to me, are just as guilty! Animals sense doom, death and despair, and this shelter is portraying it at every angle possible. How sad that a once loved pet has been sent to it’s death in such a horrid and cruel way. I just want to know why is that? How come no one cares when there is so much proof that animals mean so much to people if cared for properly, no different than a child. I guess people know they can get away with animal cruelty, neglect and tortue and nothing will happen to the ones inflicting such cruelty. I pray this comes to an end!

  5. Check out *MABEL* – ID#A095385 – this cat clearly has blood on her neck – injury? Jugular stick? The number of cats who look panicky and stressed is disturbing.

    This cat – CAT – ID#A095209 is clearly quite unwell…

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