Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Today at 3:32 p.m.
Del Norte’s animal division begins transition to sheriff’s office; Chief Executive Says Staffing Changes and Budget Adjustments Will Be Necessary
• Del Norte Sheriff’s Office recommended as potential new home for animal services
• Del Norte County is looking to restructure its animal services department
The Del Norte County Animal Services Division will be under the auspices of the Sheriff’s Office going forward.
That’s a step Animal Services Director and Agriculture Commissioner Justin Riggs said could help improve working conditions in the Agriculture Division. And that’s the one Sheriff Garrett Scott said his department could make work.
But the situation is still fluid, District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey told the Wild Rivers Outpost Friday. She said she’s open to suggestions from anyone who has them.
“What I would really like to make sure since we are here is that we are looking at the needs of animal services,” she said. “We didn’t do that. We’ve kind of been fragmented together over the last 15 years. We cannot continue to do business as usual.
Del Norte County supervisors unanimously instructed county staff on Tuesday to begin transitioning the animal services division from the Department of Agriculture to the sheriff’s office.
County administrative officer Neal Lopez said his goal is to complete that transition in November. But, he said, that depends on the final budget as well as contract negotiations between bargaining groups representing county employees.
On Friday, Lopez said he met with Scott, who requested personnel changes and necessary adjustments to facilitate a new division within the DNSO. It will be up to the oversight board to review and approve those changes, Lopez told the Wild Rivers Outpost.
Until Tuesday, Del Norte County was one of four in California whose animal services division was under the Department of Agriculture. According to Lopez, who spoke with representatives of the California Animal Welfare Association, in rural counties it is often up to the sheriff’s office to oversee animal control.
Such is the case with Humboldt County, Lopez told the Outpost.
“Our intention is to use them as a guideline,” he said. “We spoke to the sheriff several times. Talked about structure, talked about the necessary positions on his side regarding the supervision and administration of the department. They operate independently as is.
In Del Norte, all three animal control stations were filled Monday — a first for the county, according to Lopez. Staff are working on hiring a third part-time kennel attendant, he said.
“We are trying to fill some gaps there in terms of providing services and managing all the tasks required for a seven-day-a-week operation,” he said.
According to Lopez, staff had also considered the Department of Community Development’s Public Health Branch or Code Enforcement Division as potential hotbeds for animal services.
The DNSO seemed the most natural solution, according to Lopez’s staff report.
On Tuesday, animal services supervisor Brittany Pratt told supervisors that the 30 dogs housed at the shelter are currently legally required to receive a minimum of 15 minutes of basic maintenance each day. This does not include sanitizing indoor and outdoor enclosures, moving dogs to and from their kennels, taking them to the vet, administering medical treatment, enriching and socializing them or exercising them, she said.
Doing all of this takes about 40 minutes of staff time per animal per day and is necessary to improve the animals’ quality of life and ensure they find a new home, Pratt said.
“About 28 staff hours a day are required for the overall care of the animals at the shelter,” she told supervisors, adding that the shelter is still at or near capacity. “Two part-timers can’t handle this workload. The staff at the shelter work incredibly hard and sometimes the responsibilities are shifted onto the volunteers because the current staff just don’t have the time.
The Del Norte County Animal Shelter has seized 239 dogs since Jan. 1, with strays accounting for about 150 of the animals seized, Pratt told supervisors. Only 114 dogs have been reunited with their owners since then, she said.
Since the previous year, Pratt has seized 66 dogs and 25 farm animals for neglect or abuse. She pointed out that with the rise of mental health issues and homelessness in the community, she and her fellow animal control officers are often the first responders.
“We would like to have the same protections and be seen as such in the community we serve,” Pratt told supervisors.
According to Riggs, more than 2,000 hours that had been budgeted for the agriculture department were spent on animal services. This has compromised agricultural programs and jeopardizes employee retention, he said, noting that they are professionals with scientific degrees and licenses and are recruited by counties across the country. ‘State.
“We handle many important tasks such as testing over 1,000 registered commercial weighing and measuring devices in Del Norte County, enforcing pesticide application, managing weeds, excluding new pests from the county, ensuring the pest control to residents, agricultural inspections, nursery inspections and issuing certificates allowing our growers of lily bulbs to ship,” said Riggs. “We have a dedicated team of staff who are proficient in these activities. We risk losing them and they cannot be easily replaced.
For the reorganization of animal services to succeed, it must have the resources to fend for itself, Riggs said. He and Pratt both said the R measure was necessary for the continued operation of the animal services division.
Approximately $78,805 of Measure R funding was directed to creating the Animal Services Supervisor position and increasing the salaries of animal control officers in the division.
Tax Measures dollars are also being used to upgrade the Del Norte County Animal Shelter, Riggs told the Measure R oversight committee in March.
These facility upgrades are needed, volunteer Janet Kasbohm told supervisors on Tuesday.
“The building is old, the noise is deafening and there is no air filtration system, so the stench in the morning is overwhelming,” she said. “The pound works essentially thanks to the work of dedicated volunteers. Over the past seven months, volunteer hours have represented the equivalent of four full-time positions. This year, our incoming contribution will be at least $300,000 – that’s a 10% match for a $3 million grant.
Kasbohm said it’s the Humane Society of Del Norte and the Dogs of Del Norte who fulfill the government’s mandate that dogs for adoption must be spayed or neutered, raising and spending $10,000. She said an industrial washer and dryer and “working water faucets” would also improve work efficiency.
Another volunteer at the pound, Angelina Davis, said conditions for the cattle needed to improve significantly. The existing fence is inadequate and unsafe and consists of rotting wooden posts, corroded T-posts without anti-impalement safety measures as well as rusty hog wire, chicken wire and twisted chicken wire.
The facility’s corrals are made up of buttercups, which Davis says are toxic to livestock. And there are no proper covers to protect them from the elements.
“The county must also recognize that livestock such as horses, goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, rabbits and chickens are all prey,” she said. “Dogs are predatory pack animals by nature and obviously your prey and predators shouldn’t inhabit the same facility, especially with the conditions the pound is in right now.”
On Tuesday, though she acknowledged the government was moving slowly, Starkey said the county was beginning to rectify the concerns they had received.
“In the last six to eight months, we’ve done more to this pound than you’ve seen in years. We’re trying and the government is moving slowly,” Starkey said. mentioned it. You wanted a washer and dryer. We got you the sink you wanted. We’ve improved different things. Although it’s slow and doesn’t meet the complaints we’ve heard here today we worked on it.
Starkey requested more information from staff about the minimum standard of care the Del Norte County Animal Services Division is required to provide when seizing a dog.
Her colleague, District 5 Representative Susan Masten, said she also wanted to make sure adequate fencing was also provided at the animal shelter.
On Friday, Starkey said she hopes the reorganization of the animal services division will identify what the department is missing. This can include having an item for neutering and neutering dogs that are at the shelter as well as determining if euthanizing an animal that cannot be adopted is necessary, she said.
The contribution of volunteers should also be considered, Starkey said.
“Obviously we have upset volunteers. Volunteering should be something they love to do and not something they have to do,” she said. “The public needs to be involved in this.”