‘Ut­ter dis­re­pair’ at an­i­mal shel­ter

The aging fa­cil­ity is over­crowded and poses health risks to hu­mans and crit­ters, a grand jury re­port says.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Anh Do anh.do@la­times.com Twit­ter: @new­ster­rier

Grand jury re­port says O.C. fa­cil­ity poses health risks to hu­mans and crit­ters.

The 74-year-old Or­ange County an­i­mal shel­ter has fallen into “ut­ter dis­re­pair,” cre­at­ing health risks to both hu­mans and crit­ters, ac­cord­ing to a new grand jury re­port.

The main struc­ture, built with un­re­in­forced brick and sur­rounded by “piece­meal place­ments of sheds, gaze­bos, lean-tos, trail­ers,” and other por­ta­ble units may not sur­vive earth­quakes, the re­port found.

When the fa­cil­ity first opened dur­ing World War II, it was in­tended to serve about 200,000 res­i­dents. But to­day, with 18 con­tract cities also depend­ing on the county for an­i­mal care ser­vices, the cov­er­age area in­cludes roughly 2.1 mil­lion peo­ple, more than 10 times the orig­i­nal tar­get.

The shel­ter, which sits next to the Theo Lacy Jail in Or­ange, is “over­crowded and un­able to sus­tain” its ur­gent work of pro­vid­ing “com­pas­sion­ate care,” said the re­port, re­leased last week. It noted that struc­tural changes made at the fa­cil­ity over the year could be in vi­o­la­tion of build­ing codes, threat­en­ing the county with legal lia- bil­ity.

Ju­rors slammed county lead­ers for fail­ing to solve ur­gent prob­lems, in­clud­ing clean­li­ness and san­i­ta­tion.

For more than 20 years, the Board of Su­per­vi­sors “has been keenly aware of the real and im­me­di­ate need for a new shel­ter fa­cil­ity,” and in 1995 set aside $5 mil­lion in seed money to build one, ac­cord­ing to the grand jury’s find­ings. Of­fi­cials asked county ex­ec­u­tives to over­see the project but “to date, noth­ing sub­stan­tive has been ac­com­plished to­ward achieve­ment of this task.”

This re­port is “right on,” says an­i­mal rights ac­tivist Rose Tin­gle, who lob­bied su­per­vi­sors to fix the prob­lem. “Th­ese are Third World con­di­tions” ex­ist­ing in aff lu­ent Or­ange County, she added, “but, re­ally, no one wants to lis­ten. They give you lip ser­vice but their ac­tion is to show in­ac­tion.

“I would like the county to get out of the an­i­mal shel­ter busi­ness,” Tin­gle said. “They do not have the level of con­scious­ness to be in it. What they have at the shel­ter is ap­palling. An­i­mals de­serve bet­ter. Their staff and the public de­serve bet­ter.”

Todd Spitzer, chair­man of the Board of Su­per­vi­sors, could not be reached for com­ment. To build new shel­ters, the grand jury sug­gests that of­fi­cials fund a po­si­tion, as­sign­ing some­one to take charge of de­sign and con­struc­tion.

Mean­while “ev­ery Cal­i­for­nia county with a pop­u­la­tion ex­ceed­ing 500,000 has more than one an­i­mal shel­ter fa­cil­ity,” the re­port noted. “Or­ange County is the ex­cep­tion, hav­ing one shel­ter fa­cil­ity de­spite the geo­graphic and de­mo­graphic need for mul­ti­ple shel­ters.”

Jean Bland, a mem­ber of a South Or­ange County co- ali­tion for a new shel­ter, said: “I am so thrilled that the grand jury took a thor­ough look at this unimag­in­able sit­u­a­tion. We’ve had re­ports is­sued in the past, but this one is the most hard-hit­ting.”

There are no stan­dard or reg­u­larly sched­uled in­spec­tions of the shel­ter, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. The last in­spec­tion oc­curred in De­cem­ber 2008, when the Cal­i­for­nia State Board of Ve­teri­nary Ex­am­in­ers vis­ited only a vet clinic, rather than the en­tire fa­cil­ity.

A su­per­vi­sor told the new grand jury that the county “is un­able to in­spect the roof of the main struc­ture for fear of its col­lapse.”

“If the county is afraid that the roof could fall in, why haven’t they done any­thing about it?” Bland asked. “I know that the su­per­vi­sors will con­tinue to sit on it. They truly do not care, un­less the vot­ers make them care. Vot­ers have to stand up and say, ‘You have to do this or we never vote for you again.’ ”

Bob Chamberlin Los An­ge­les Times

THE SHEL­TER’S MAIN struc­ture and other por­ta­ble units may not sur­vive earth­quakes, a grand jury re­port says. Above, chi­huahuas at the shel­ter in 2012.

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