Board Gets Status Check on Animal Services Revamp

Troubled County Department Could Face Privatization

Animal-lover volunteers congregated at the supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday to argue that their services are an essential component to Animal Services, known for its long-term troubles. Their input was part of an update to the supervisors about efforts to revamp Animal Services (operating under Public Health), which was picked apart by a third party earlier this year.

Thus far, Public Health Director Dr. Takashi Wada told the supervisors the department has set up an oversight committee ​— ​made up of county staff and volunteers with BUNS (Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter), ASAP (Animal Shelter Assistance Program), and CAPA (Companion Animal Placement Assistance), among other animal rescue groups ​— ​as well as started the hiring process for a vet technician, a director of shelter medicine, a behavior consultant, and an operations position.

Success varies considerably across the county’s three shelters. In Santa Barbara, there is a live-release rate of 95 percent of cats and 99 percent of dogs, whereas the Santa Maria rate is 76 percent for cats and 82 percent for dogs.

As far as the oversight committee, Supervisor Salud Carbajal said he has become aware of a paradox that exists where some volunteers feel they cannot speak candidly and critically of staff for fear of retaliation. He suggested they get a cup of coffee outside of the formal meeting.  

Supervisor Doreen Farr brought up the possibility of privatizing ​— ​or partially privatizing ​— ​the department, which was at the top of the list of remedies. “I understand you are trying to grapple with it, but that’s something we need to have an update on,” Farr said. Public Health staff are to return to the board in January.

Angela Rockwell, who is the executive director of ASAP, thanked the supervisors for recognizing volunteer services potential is “limitless” and said she hoped the department would eventually have a model that considers volunteers as full partners.


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