Animal Control has failed to grow with county |

Animal Control has failed to grow with county

Animal Control has made a science out of scraping by with less, but according to the El Dorado County grand jury, it shouldn’t have to.

The jury found that while the county agency operates “efficiently and effectively,” it has failed to grow with the county’s population. And, it is woefully lacking in adequate facilities and staffing.

A new state law requiring shelters to keep animals for longer periods, and to stay open more hours, puts a dire twist on the situation. The Hayden Bill, effective July 1, could make shelters liable for civil damages related to improper animal holding periods and inadequate facilities for stray and impounded animals. The jury found that as a result of the bill the concentration of animals in county shelters could dramatically increase and produce overcrowding.

Besides an urgent need for new facilities, the grand jury found Animal Control needed to improve public education and adoption programs.

“I agree 100 percent with (the jury’s) recommendations,” said Pat Claerbout, El Dorado County animal control director. “We were very pleased, overall, with the grand jury report.”

In an attempt to stop overcrowding before it starts, Claerbout said the county will no longer take all animals.

“We are not required to take someone’s pet just because they want to get rid of it. We are encouraging people to find other places for their animals. We should be their last resort,” Claerbout said. “In the past that was not the case. We were cheap and easy. It all comes back to owner responsibility.”

Before July 1, owners could drop off pets after paying a $12 fee. Now, if the animal is accepted, the owner must pay three nights’ board in addition to the fee. And there is no guarantee that the animal will be adopted.

To comply with one of the requirements of the new state law, the Tahoe shelter will be open until 7 p.m. on Wednesday evenings to allow owners to come and look for their pets.

During an inspection of both the Placerville and Tahoe kennels the jurors found: a lack of storage space; poor plumbing; no natural lighting in the kennel area; no alarm system; and no fire-sprinkler system in any of the buildings.

Although both facilities are more than 30 years old, Claerbout said she did not see any immediate hope of expansion or new construction. The money has just not been available in the past, she said. The state appropriated $1 million for the Hayden Bill, to help counties and humane societies pay for the additional costs. Claerbout pointed out that the funds are spread between the state’s 400 to 500 shelters, and will have no real impact on El Dorado County’s problems.

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