Ventura County, CA

[For today’s News Bit and the Running Totals, click here.]

Ventura County is located in southern California, northwest of Los Angeles. The population was 823,000 at the 2010 census. Its median household income is above the national average.

Ventura County Animal Services (VCAS) has two intake shelters, and in 2014 they achieved a 91% live release rate with an intake of 9000 animals, according to a recent report from VCAS. This followed orders from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in 2012 that VCAS become No Kill.

Changes that VCAS made after the 2012 directive included starting foster and volunteer programs, seeking out rescues to work with, adding a veterinarian who was on board with treating the treatables, and play groups and pack walks for dogs. Tara Diller was hired as director in February 2014. Diller stresses taking animals out into the community rather than waiting for people to come in to adopt.

A non-profit called Paw Works, founded in January 2014, has been helping with fosters, adoption events, and transports. In their first year they rescued over 770 homeless animals in Ventura County. They have a group of volunteer pilots, Air Paws, that do transports, and a barn cat program.

Ventura County is counted in the Running Totals as a 90%+ community.

San Francisco, CA

[For today’s News Bit and the Running Totals, click here.]

San Francisco is a combined city and county located in northern California. It has a population of about 837,000 people. The city/county shelter is San Francisco Animal Care And Control (ACC). The ACC performs all the functions of a municipal shelter, including animal control and accepting owner surrenders, and it has an adoption center. It has had a partnership known as the “Adoption Pact” with the private San Francisco SPCA since 1994. The SPCA pulls animals from ACC under the agreement, and it also does some intake directly from the public.

The San Francisco SPCA has been recognized as a leader in the field of animal sheltering since back in the 1800s. And of course it is well-known for its origination of the No Kill communities concept in the 1990s. The SPCA today continues to be innovative, as with its shelter-neuter-return program for community cats. In addition to animals that the SPCA accepts from ACC under the Adoption Pact, it also takes in many animals from outside of San Francisco, including under an agreement with Stockton.

The ACC and the SPCA have reported their combined statistics for years. In the 1990s the Adoption Pact achieved live release rates of over 75%, which was the highest of any major city at that time. In more recent years the combined live release rates have generally been in the mid-80% range. In 2013, the coalition finally broke the 90% barrier, with a combined 92% live release rate (excluding transfers between ACC and the SPCA). The ACC offers owner-requested-euthanasia, and if that number plus animals who died in shelter care are counted as euthanasias the live release rate was 89%.

Mission Viejo, CA

Mission Viejo is a large planned community southeast of Los Angeles, with a population of about 93,000 people. The cities of Aliso Viejo (population 48,000) and Laguna Niguel (population 62,000) are just southwest of Mission Viejo.

Mission Viejo Animal Services (MVAS) is a municipal agency that provides animal control and sheltering services for all three cities. A non-profit, the Dedicated Animal Welfare Group (DAWG), provides substantial support to the shelter, especially for animals requiring medical care. DAWG also pays all expenses for animals transferred in from outside the jurisdiction, so that they will not be a burden on city taxpayers. DAWG’s 20-year anniversary is coming up in 2015.

MVAS takes in strays impounded by animal control and accepts owner surrenders. The shelter will take owner surrendered dogs from anywhere as long as they meet health and temperament requirements, but it accepts owner-surrendered cats only from its jurisdiction. The shelter has had a temporary waiting list for cats recently as it completes a new cattery. Once the cattery is opened, MVAS hopes to be able to accept cats from surrounding jurisdictions as well as its own jurisdiction. MVAS will not accept surrenders of aggressive animals or animals who have untreatable medical illnesses. MVAS does not provide owner-requested euthanasia.

Mission Viejo is located in Orange County, California, which has a county shelter. The county shelter received some animals in fiscal year 2013-2014 from Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, and Laguna Niguel. The county shelter provides owner-requested euthanasia, but the shelter director stated that it is limited to animals who are “irremediably suffering” as verified by a veterinarian or have a history of aggression as defined by state law. The county does not break out owner-requested euthanasias separately from other euthanasias.

Sharon Cody, a former city council member for Mission Viejo and the president of DAWG, sent me information and statistics for MVAS and the county shelter for fiscal year 2013-2014. The county shelter report broke out the intake and disposition of animals from the three communities served by MVAS. Therefore, the combined statistics should represent all intake and disposition of domestic pets for the fiscal year for the three jurisdictions.

For the 2013-2014 fiscal year, total intake was 1226 for MVAS plus 170 animals taken in by the county from MVAS jurisdictions. The combined live release rate for the fiscal year was 92%, including owner-requested euthanasia. It is not possible to provide a modified live release rate including animals who died in shelter care because MVAS includes those animals in a “miscellaneous release” category that also includes live releases such as transfers to rescue. Based on the information sent to me by Sharon, however, it appears that 3 to 5 animals may have died in shelter care, which would not be enough to change the live release rate.

MVAS has an exceptionally high return-to-owner rate. Out of 951 strays impounded in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the shelter reported returning 524 to their owners for an overall return-to-owner rate of 55%, including cats. In fiscal year 2013-2014 the number of strays taken in was 1061 and the return-to-owner rate was 47% including cats.

Sharon told me that the MVAS jurisdictions do have some restrictions on the number of animals per household. She is not aware of any breed restrictions, however, either by the MVAS jurisdictions or the homeowner associations in the area. She said that DAWG provided $80,000 in veterinary treatment during the 2013-2014 fiscal year, “saving every animal that could be treated.” A feral cat program has reduced feral cat euthanasia from 35 two years ago to just 3 in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, and Laguna Niguel are counted in the Running Totals as 90%+ communities.

Nevada County, CA

Nevada County is located in northern California, and it shares a border with the state of Nevada. The county has almost 100,000 human residents. On July 1, 2010, a non-profit called Sammie’s Friends took over management of the Nevada County Animal Shelter from the county sheriff’s office. Animal control is still done by the sheriff’s office. In addition to the strays picked up by animal control, the shelter accepts stray animals from the public. It also accepts owner surrenders “when possible” and with a small fee.

Shelter director Cheryl Wicks wrote an article for the spring 2012 newsletter in which she takes us through a day in the life of the shelter. As she says: “Running the shelter is a little like driving an ambulance, you must go fast and pay attention to detail because somebody’s life may depend on it. You must be ready to turn on a dime at any moment because amongst the everyday work there are endless surprises.”

Curt Romander, a co-founder of Sammie’s Friends, told me: “We have a large budget dedicated to medical care of sick or injured animals that come into the shelter. This budget is funded by donations from the community and grants. We are also funded by proceeds from our thrift store which has been very successful.” The spring 2014 newsletter describes how Sammie’s Friends funded veterinary care for the shelter and for animals in the community for years before taking over the shelter.

Romander sent me full statistics for the shelter for 2013, and they are linked here: Nevada County CA 2013 Statistics. He notes that the shelter has “maintained a euthanasia rate below 1% for the past 4 years.” My calculation of the live release rate for 2013 was 99.4%. The modified live release rate, with deaths in foster care, at the veterinarian, and at the shelter counted with euthanasias, is 96%.

The shelter places most of its animals by adoption, with 1147 animals (71% of its 2013 intake of 1626 animals) having been adopted. This is an adoption rate of 12 per thousand people. The spring 2013 newsletter describes one challenging case — a bonded pair of large, nine-year-old dogs who were aggressive toward cats. The shelter placed the dogs with a foster who trained them to leave cats alone, and ultimately adopted both of them.

Nevada County, CA, was originally listed by this blog on April 30, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Petaluma, CA

Petaluma is a city of about 58,000 people in Sonoma County, California. On August 1, 2012, a non-profit named Petaluma Animal Services Foundation (PASF) took over management of the city’s municipal shelter. The city had allowed PASF to bid on the contract because it wanted to cut the cost of animal control. In an article that appeared in a Petaluma newspaper last August, a reporter noted that PASF was able to provide more effective services at less cost than the city administration, in large part because two-thirds of its budget comes from donations, fees, and grants. This funding allows PASF to pay for veterinary services.

PASF takes in strays and owner surrenders from the city. They have a barn cat program and offer low-cost spay and neuter. PASF has drastically cut the average length of stay since taking over from the city, and increased the number of foster homes. PASF hired most of the city employees who had worked at the shelter before it took over, but it replaced the previous shelter director with Jeff Charter, who was director of animal control under the city administration.

In November of 2012, PASF reported that it had been running at a 94% live release rate from the date of the takeover. The shelter director recently sent me their Asilomar Accords form with statistics for 2013: Petaluma 2013 Asilomar Form

The report shows a live release rate for calendar year 2013 of 97%. If owner-requested euthanasias and animals who died or were lost in shelter care are included with euthanasias, the live release rate was 94%. Total intake was 1300 cats and dogs.

Berkeley, CA

Berkeley is a city of 113,000 people just across the bay from San Francisco. Berkeley Animal Care Services (BACS) handles animal control and sheltering for Berkeley. BACS also handles animal sheltering for the nearby cities of Piedmont (population 11,000), Emeryville (population 10,000), and Albany (population 19,000). (Emeryville contracts with Piedmont for animal control, and both cities contract with BACS for animal sheltering. Albany contracts with BACS for both animal control and sheltering.) BACS moved into a new shelter building in early 2013. The history of BACS and the decade-long effort to build the new shelter is described here.

I called BACS to ask about their owner surrender policy and was told that residents of the four jurisdictions served by BACS may surrender an animal at any time with a small fee ($20 for a cat, $20 for a licensed dog, and $30 for an unlicensed dog).

In 2012, BACS had a 91% live release rate with an intake of 1863 animals (scroll down in the link for the report). The shelter reported zero animals in the “died/lost in shelter care” category during the year and 3 owner-requested euthanasias were performed, so the live release rate is unchanged if those categories are counted as euthanasias. In 2013, BACS took in 1641 dogs and cats and had a 90% live release rate. The shelter reported 1 owner-requested euthanasia and 1 animal in the died/lost category, and the live release rate is unchanged if those deaths are included with euthanasias.

BACS transfers a high percentage of its animals (796 in 2012 and 668 in 2013) to community organizations. Two private organizations —  the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society (BEBHS), and Home At Last Animal Rescue (HAL) — are part of a coalition to support BACS. The group is known as the Berkeley Alliance for Homeless Animals Coalition (BAHAC).

Berkeley, California, was originally listed by this blog on April 18, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Alameda, CA

The city of Alameda (not to be confused with Alameda County) has 74,000 residents and is located on Alameda Island and Bay Farm Island in San Francisco Bay. Estimated median household income for Alameda is $67,000, which is somewhat above the California median household income of $57,000.

In January 2012, the city of Alameda contracted with a private non-profit called the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter (FAAS) to manage the city shelter. The city retained management of animal control. The city was able to cut its budget costs for animal sheltering by more than two-thirds in its deal with FAAS.

FAAS described its owner surrender policy in a November 2013 newsletter, noting that “we are an ‘open-door’ facility . . . . This means we accept all Alameda’s abandoned pets regardless of age, temperament, health, breed or any other factor. . . . Kennel space is always at a premium (especially in the summer), but we don’t turn away Alameda animals . . . .” The shelter charges a small fee for owner surrenders.

Two FAAS officials reported In a recent newspaper article that about 70% of the animals the shelter takes in can be put up for adoption as soon as the holding period is over. Another 20% of animals require medical or behavior rehabilitation before being put up for adoption. About 4% go to rescues who can provide sanctuary or other specialized care. The remaining 6% are euthanized for behavior or medical reasons. The 6% includes dogs that FAAS considers too dangerous to be rehabilitated, which are about 2% of total intake.

In 2012 FAAS intake was 820 dogs and cats, which is 11 pets per 1000 population. The live release rate for 2012 was 94%. If owner-requested euthanasia and animals who died or were lost in shelter care are included with euthanasias, the live release rate for 2012 was 91%. In 2013, the shelter’s intake increased to 901 dogs and cats, but the live release rate remained 94%, or 91% if owner-requested euthanasia and animals who died or were lost in shelter care are included with euthanasias.

In 2010, before the FAAS takeover, the city shelter had a 79% live release rate with an intake of 753 dogs and cats (scroll down in the link to City of Alameda Animal Shelter). One improvement with FAAS has been in adoptions, which rose from 313 in 2010 to 437 in 2012 and 460 in 2013. The shelter has also increased its reliance on its rescue partners, with 192 transfers in 2013 compared to 32 in 2012. In a 2013 Annual Report FAAS describes plans for a new shelter in the future and mentions its new programs, including a food pantry, an expanded rescue group network, a fund for medical care, more volunteer opportunities, and kennel enrichment.

Alameda, California, was originally listed by this blog on December 15, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.