A recent investigation by the Mendocino Co grand jury into the county shelter in Ukiah, CA revealed some troubling findings:
- Owners attempting to surrender pets at the shelter are regularly turned away, in violation of CA law.
- The shelter is overcrowded and overflow animals are kept in crates. Some animals have lived at the shelter for more than a year.
- The shelter is infested with rats.
- There is a contentious relationship between shelter staff and ACOs, each falling under separate departments. The ACOs feel the staff doesn’t want them bringing animals to the facility. As a result, ACOs tend to work with animal abusers over extended periods of time rather than seize their animals.
- Some veterinarians refuse to work with ACOs because they don’t believe the ACOs seize abused animals in a timely manner and the abusers are not barred from immediately obtaining more animals.
- ACOs in the field do not have access to the computer system containing licensing information and therefore must use their personal cell phones to call shelter staff when they pick up stray animals. Because cell service is spotty and the staff only answer the phones some of the time, the ACOs don’t bother trying to get the information they need to return lost pets in the field. These animals are all brought to the overcrowded, rat infested shelter.
Although it’s stated in the Mendocino Co ACO manual that they are required to maintain confidentiality in their duties, the grand jury found ACOs were telling animal abusers the names of people who complained about them. As a result, many tipsters and their children were harassed in retaliation.
The grand jury made a number of recommendations including placing ACOs and shelter staff under the same department, training for shelter management, third party inspections at the shelter on a quarterly basis, annual ethics training for ACOs, computer access in the ACO vehicles, and the development of protocols for handling abuse cases. The Mendocino Co shelter manager, the county sheriff, and the county board of supervisors are just some of the people required to respond to the grand jury findings.
(Thanks Clarice for the links.)