By Beth Wurzburg

Did you know that Oakland Animal Services (aka, “OAS”), the city-run animal shelter:

  • takes in almost 6,000 lost, abandoned and surrendered animals each year?
  • is only open to the public 21 hours per week?
  • has no on-site veterinarian, no permanent shelter director, no shelter manager, no rescue coordinator, no volunteer coordinator and only one un-registered vet tech to oversee the care of the hundreds of animals on-site daily?
  • is part of the Oakland Police Department and has three sworn officers managing daily shelter operations?
  • has recently euthanized many adoptable animals that rescue groups could have taken?

It’s time for OAS to get OUT of OPD!
There are two events on Tuesday evening, May 6, where you can help the Oakland Animal Shelter (OAS):

  1. Come to the dog-in rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza at 5 pm (if you don’t have a dog, bring a sign with a picture of your pet)
  2. Come to the City Council Meeting following the dog-in rally and speak to the CC in support of OAS!

What can the city do for OAS?

  1. Remove the animal sheltering part of animal services from under the Police Department and place it directly under the City Administrator’s office
  2. Support the shelter with appropriate staffing including a progressive Director, a Shelter Manager and Rescue Coordinator
  3. Fairly evaluate every animal in a standardized way, with considerable efforts made to facilitate live placement before euthanasia
  4. Establish an advisory committee of animal experts to review OAS practices as is common in many Bay Area municipal shelters

Can’t attend the meeting?

You can contact your City Councilor, the At-large Councilor (Rebecca Kaplan) and Mayor Jean Quan and ask them to do what is listed above. Here are their e-mails and phone numbers.

You can fill out a speaker card, when you arrive or beforehand online.

Here’s more information about speaking before the City Council.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
For guidelines, see: http://oaklandlocal.com/guidelines/.
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7 Responses

  1. r2d2ii

    Oakland’s government has even let Oakland’s dogs down. How low can they go?

    Reply
  2. Len Raphael

    Instead of paying 3 police officers our average total cost of compensation (including retirement costs and other benefits) of 200K/year per office, with that 600K/year we could get a full time director, plus a vet, and a couple of techs.

    Reply
  3. Ellen Lynch

    Hiring a Director now won’t make any difference. The Shelter is a disaster as long as it is under OPD. We won’t get a good Humane Director, such as a Megan Webb, until the shelter is removed from OPD. Animal Control is meanwhile in total control of things, deciding the fate of animals, and they have no expertise working with animals.

    What we need is to keep City Council’s feet to the fire as they ask the City Administrator to take the shelter out of OPD and under his Department. A report is due in June.

    Meanwhile, the invaluable Martha Cline, who is singularly responsible for the successful Transfer Rescue partnerships, has been told by OPD to stop doing this work. Animal Control has taken over these duties, which is ridiculous. There needs to be a Rescue Coordinator position, and Martha should have that job. Animal Control is doing everything at the shelter, and they are not doing a good job of it.

    Animals are being “euthanized” for ridiculous reasons right now. Rescues, who are responsible for most of the animals leaving the shelter alive, are simply not being contacted by the shelter, because Animal Control does not know how to properly do this.

    Reply
  4. Kat Engh

    Here’s what I wrote to Mayor Quan:

    Hi Mayor Quan,

    As an Oakland resident and owner of a wonderful rescue dog from the Oakland Animal Shelter, I care deeply about the importance that OAS holds in our community.

    Oakland has a stray animal problem; if you need further evidence of this, just look up the reason one neighborhood in West Oakland is known as “Dogtown.” Stray animals are dangerous for a number of reasons – they can carry and spread disease, cause traffic disruptions and even accidents, attack/bite/scratch people and other pets, and become neighborhood nuisances. This can lead to costly lawsuits for the city.

    When pet owners who need to surrender their animals don’t have great resources for doing so, we make these problems worse, and even risk an increase in crimes against animals, such as dumping/abandoning animals, killing them, or hurting them in other ways. Oakland cannot afford to see higher crime rates, whether they’re crimes against fellow people or fellow living things.

    We have the Oakland Animal Shelter as a primary resource for preventing these problems, and also, to care for animals in need of homes. My dog has a loving home now (and I have a loving dog!) because of the Oakland Animal Shelter. It’s such a wonderful, important institution in our city for families and individuals, whether you have fallen on hard times and need a place to surrender, or are looking for your new best friend. But I’ve seen its limitations firsthand.

    When I tried to report someone for animal cruelty years ago, I had to watch the poor dog sit outside in the cold and rain for several days while I waited for someone at OAS to return my messages, because the shelter has such limited hours of operation.

    When I first adopted my own dog, the information on her microchip was entered incorrectly, and I was nearly fined when the shelter picked up a dog that they thought was mine (meanwhile, she was asleep next to me on the couch).

    New owners of dogs adopted from the shelter are not properly educated on how to care for their pets, keep up to date with licensing, etc.

    People will always come first in priorities of civic leadership and duties, which is why Oakland Animal Shelter needs more funding, full-time staff, and ethical practices. Having OPD officers staffing the shelter part-time is a fool’s method for managing an important and valuable service, and worse, it takes these officers’ time and attention away from places where they are really trained to work and where their skills are most needed. I would not hire a security guard to be my dog’s vet or pet sitter. Why do we use OPD to be animal caregivers?

    While I’m talking about increasing funding, what we have here is an opportunity to save money in the long run. First, I know as an Oakland resident that OPD officers don’t come cheap. We pay them to protect our city and clean up crime, not to do administrative work at animal shelters. Staffing the OAS with adequately trained professionals would still be cheaper than putting police on desk duty at the shelter. Fewer lawsuits, lower crime against animals, fewer reports of blight or stray animal nuisances, fewer traffic disturbances and accidents caused by strays. These things add up, too.

    I hope that you will seriously consider the impact that the Oakland Animal Shelter makes on this community, and how making these improvements can only help make things even better.

    Reply
  5. Kat Engh

    I reached out to Mayor Quan’s office today by email and phone to express my support for a better Oakland Animal Shelter, and not only did they call me back, but they also sent me the following memorandum, which shows that they are in the process of hiring staff for the shelter. It’s not all of the changes we want, but it’s a good start. Read on…

    The purpose of this memorandum is to provide an update of the Oakland Animal Shelter. The information in the memorandum will focus on rescue efforts, euthanasia data, and shelter staffing.

    Rescue Efforts:

    The Oakland Animal Shelter is committed to building effective partnerships with the many animal rescue groups locally and nationally. To better facilitate rescues and improve communication with various groups, staff established a rescue email, oasrescue@oaklandnet.com. The email provides personnel the capacity to receive and send out potential rescue requests from a central source.

    Staff has reviewed and confirmed all MOUs the City holds with transfer groups. A list of these groups is centralized at the Shelter, and allows staff easy access to review the available groups. The Animal Control Supervisor has been designated as the point of contact for rescue groups. This is an interim task for the supervisor until the Volunteer Coordinator completes the background process and assumes her assignment at the Shelter.

    Staff continues efforts to reach out to rescues for animal placement. The Shelter has set up weekly times for rescues to visit the facility and select animals for transfer. The following table compares year to date rescues with the two previous years:

    01/01-04/29 2012
    01/01-04/29 2013
    01/01-04/29 2014
    Dog/Cat Intake
    1761
    1680
    1367
    Transferred
    575
    613
    614
    Percentage
    32.6%
    36.4%
    44.9%
    Euthanasia Data:

    Through rescue and adoption, the Animal Shelter seeks to continuously improve live release rates. Recognizing the goal for live release, the Shelter does facilitate the euthanasia of animals. Typically, these animals are unsuitable for rescue or adoption. The following table compares euthanasia proportional data for YTD 2014 and the three previous years:

    Annual
    2011
    Annual
    2012
    Annual
    2013
    YTD
    2014
    Total Animal Intake
    6148
    6341
    5788
    1398
    Total Euthanized
    2690
    2608
    2115
    389
    Percentage
    44%
    41%
    36%
    28%

    Staffing:

    For effective operations, the Shelter requires proper staffing. With this understanding, OPD staff is working to fill vacancies. Further explanation of Shelter staffing will proceed from the table. The following table reflects current Shelter staffing:

    Position
    Budgeted
    Filled
    Vacancies
    Director
    1
    Pending
    Pending
    Animal Control Supervisor
    2
    1
    1
    Volunteer Coordinator
    1
    1
    0
    Veterinarian
    1 (FTE)
    0.5
    0.5
    Vet Technician
    2
    2
    0
    Animal Control Officer
    11
    7.5
    3.5
    Police Records Specialist
    2
    1
    1
    Animal Care Attendant
    20 (part-time)
    12 (part-time)
    8 (pending)

    · While the Director’s position is pending, an OPD Lieutenant has been tasked with Shelter management. If a vacancy occurs, the City will conduct recruitment for a new Director.
    · Recently, the Shelter was authorized a second Animal Control Supervisor position. This position is pending DHRM job posting.
    · The Volunteer Coordinator has been selected and is in the background process. The anticipated start date is the end of May 2014.
    · The Shelter posted an advertisement for a part time contract veterinarian.
    · The City posted the Animal Control position. The job posting closed May 2, 2014 and applications are under review by DHRM. The exam date is pending.
    · The City posted the Police Records Specialist position and is in the recruitment process. The eligibility list is pending completion on May 12, 2014.
    · Recently, the Shelter was authorized eight additional part time Animal Care Attendants. The Animal Shelter staff submitted eight applications, which are pending acceptance of conditional job offers to initiate the background process.

    The Animal Shelter is committed to animal care and public safety. In an attempt to leverage partnerships, Oakland Animal Services will seek experts to access shelter protocol. This will help ensure that the shelter is engaging in best practices. Staff will continue its efforts to improve Shelter operations.

    In June 2014, staff will return to the Public Safety Committee with a detailed report, regarding the proposal of transitioning the Shelter into a standalone Department.

    For questions, please contact Darren Allison, Captain of Police, at (510) 777-8679.

    Respectfully submitted,

    /s/
    Sean Whent
    Chief of Police
    Oakland Police Department

    Reply
  6. Ellen Lynch

    In response to Kat’s post regarding Quan’s response, per Chief Whent’s memo-

    A lot of this is in fact NOT good. Having the rescues receive mass emails, is absolutely not the way to effectively to communicate with rescues. This is a ridiculous approach, and speaks to OPD’s states approach of having OAS run “like the DMV”.

    The reason most animals have left the shelter alive over the last several years, is the result of the great Transfer Partnership with the Rescues.. via Martha Cline. Each animal needs to be assessed for appropriate transfer, and you cannot simply mass email to groups. You have to know which organization MAY consider an animal for it’s program. Rescues are largely volunteer operated groups, and they need to be directly contacted, with specific info, about an animal, with a CONVERSATION about the animal, the behavior, the health, the logistics of the potential rescue- transfer dates, individual picking up- details and discussions about whether the animal needs to receive medical outside of OAS prior to transfer, and who is going to take care of this and pay for it, etc.

    Part of this “mass email” program, is also- “we are going to put the word out, and if nobody responds, then the animal is euthanized”, also, “one call, one email, and then we’ve done our part”.

    If you want to truly understand how to effectively deal with rescues, and how to continue the great rescue partnership and success achieved for several years, then listen to the rescues, the Shelter Volunteers, and Martha Cline.. please do not listen to Interim Police Chief Whent, or Mayor Quan, neither of who know what the heck has happened at that shelter over the years.

    Ellen

    Reply
  7. Oakie

    Why isn’t Quan addressing the “take it entirely out of OPD” issue? Whent clearly isn’t, but that’s typical of anyone in an organization in danger of losing a responsibility and the staffing justified by it. Of course it also demonstrates a lack of ability to rise above his self-interest, not very admirable for a candidate for permanent police chief.

    But is Quan ignoring it out of incompetence or a desire to avoid having it taint her when she is fighting desperately for her political life? Or both?

    Reply

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