BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS'

WORK SESSION

February 21, 2007

6:00 p.m.

Commissionersí Conference Room

APPROVED

 

Commissioner Faye Stewart presided with Commissioners Bill Dwyer, Bill Fleenor, Bobby Green, Sr., and Peter Sorenson present.  Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer was also present.

 

Speakers Present:  Jill Winans, Willamette Animal Guild; Diane Robertson, Shelter Animal Resource Alliance; C.T. Fulkerson, No Kill Community Coalition; Mike Wellington, LCARA; Rochelle Jones, LCARA; John Archer, Claymore Waggin Inn ; Johnni Prince, Greenhill Humane Society; Katherine Ford, Willamette Animal Guild.

 

Animal Welfare Issues.

 

Mike Wellington, LCARA, gave a presentation of the improvements that had been made over the past seven years at LCARA.  He recalled he was hired seven years ago as manager to improve operations and community relations.  He noted that LCARA had 18 managers within 22 years.  He found that LCARA was not in good standing with the community humane societies and other enforcement agencies.  He said the building was in bad shape, euthanasias were high and employee morale was low.  He saw the extreme dedication of staff in spite of the working conditions.  He noted they now have a new room, a new HVAC system and a radiant heat system for the animals in the kennel.  He noted that these improvements paid for themselves within two and a half years with the energy savings they went through.  He explained that LCARA has five major components making up a progressive agency.   He said the first component is administration.  He said improvements had been made within administration with the deletion of or restructuring of existing programs and implementation of new programs, making the administrative component cost effective.  He said they restructured the adoption process.  He said it made it easier for the person adopting the animal and staff and eliminated the continual paperwork being processed through the Countyís finance department.  He stated they increased staff by one, which was needed.

 

Rochelle Jones, LCARA, gave a demonstration on LCARAís website. 

 

Wellington recalled that they instituted a spay and neuter voucher program.  He said they take a percentage of all licenses bought and turn them into vouchers for low and no income people to get their animals altered.  He indicated that 583 vouchers had been issued since August 1, 2004 to January 1, 2007.  He noted this is a County contribution of $14,575 toward surgeries.  He indicated that they have increased outside revenue with other municipalities.  He said they have been able to increase their hours to be open to the public and have created a partnership with the Florence area Humane Society.  He said they are a designated holder facility for Lane County.  He explained the partnership with Greenhill Humane Societyís Second Chance Program has worked out well and they are a licensed vendor.  He said on the days they are closed, they assist with people who have found dogs.

 

Wellington indicated they have an open door policy with citizens, employees and organizations, allowing direct access to management with concerns, complaints and progressive ideas.  He noted when they go out on neglect and abuse calls, they donít automatically prosecute; education is first, prosecution is second.

 

Wellington explained that kennel operations had been progressing at a steady pace.  He commented that working within an outdated facility and keeping up with the growing animal population is challenging.  He said new programs and procedures have increased the progression of kennel services to the public and the animals in their care.  He credited that to two additional staff positions being created by the new classification of one vacant position.  He noted it came at a minimal cost increase where they received two employees instead of one.  He said they have decreased the euthanasia rate of adoptable dogs and cats.

 

Tom Howard, LCARA, indicated that all cats upon impound are placed in their intake area and are observed 24 hours before being placed in the housing unit.  He indicated that cats and dogs are given inoculations. He noted that adoptable cats are regularly sent to Greenhill for spay and neutering.

 

With regard to the facility, Wellington reported that it is inadequate for this day and age.  He said there are no expectations of a new facility in the near future and there is a challenge to keep up with the increasing population and meeting goals of the agency.  He said they have made facility improvements as the budget has allowed directed toward the health and safety of the animals, citizens and staff.  He said they have installed new stainless kennel doors.  He noted they have a new outside holding facility and new facility lights.  He commented that community support and involvement is one of the most important components in a successful animal control program.  He credited some of the improvement to the consistency of respect, fairness, assistance and education to all of the citizens they have contact with. 

 

Wellington stated that LCARA staff is dedicated to animal welfare and to the health and safety of the community they serve.  He said sometimes the decisions are based on state statute or county code.  He said the staff works hard to find owners of lost pets and to adopt those that had been forgotten and abused.  He stated the LCARA staff supports the philosophy of no kill, but as a governing agency has to operate under mandates and supply services under the resources available.

 

Scott Bartlett commented that they are there because they love animals and they care about mercy.  He said they are upset when adoptable animals are not saved.  He stated he was on the Animal Regulation Task Force and said that most recommendations in Nathan Winogradís report are in the Animal Regulation Task Force report.  He said there are differences of opinion as to whether the current policies at LCARA are sufficient to implement the core no kill policies that people believe lower euthanasias.  He stated they need more accessible hours for families and working people, real offsite adoptions, multiple days to make more opportunities, a foster home network, pet retention programs, and expanded volunteer programs with transparency of the operation.  He commented that there is a gap between what LCARA feels it is doing and what some of the volunteers thinks is taking place.  He said there is a debate across the country about the definitions of non-adoptability from humane societies versus public shelters.  He said they had an architect come to talk about constructing a new shelter.

 

C.T. Fulkerson stated he is a chair of the No Kill Community Coalition.  He said their goal has been to introduce ideas and programs for implementation by LCARA that would result in a shelter with a no kill philosophy.  He said they recognize the potential shortfall and funding for the operation of LCARA due to the federal government failing to approve the County payments that are needed to provide the necessary services to the County by LCARA.  He noted the ideas and programs being implemented by NKCC will not result in any increase in funding and will not cost the County any additional monetary outlay.  He explained to achieve a total no kill philosophy at LCARA, the following must be accomplished:  the approval by the Board of Commissioners of a no kill resolution that includes the no kill philosophy.  He added that once the resolution is approved by the Board, they could accelerate the programs that would move animals through the shelter expeditiously to eliminate the needless killing of adoptable animals.

 

Fulkerson indicated the second requirement is the establishment of a high volume, low cost spay and neuter program at no cost to the County.  He added another area that is critical to the success of no kill is the volunteer program.  He said they have a dedicated group of LCARA volunteers working.  He noted that they have an additional 100 people ready to participate when the new kill philosophy is established at LCARA.  He noted all of the volunteers work at no cost to the County.  He said there were 179 volunteers since August who have logged in excess of 1,000 of volunteer duty.  He indicated they need the revision of the County limit laws, codes and ordinances to conform to the no kill philosophy.  He commented that the no kill philosophy is more understandable to the public when they are advised that all animals that are adoptable will be afforded the opportunity and the only exception will be euthanizing animals with a terminal medical or behavior problem.  He hoped that at the next commissioners meeting they could adopt the no kill philosophy and they could assign the appropriate staff to work with them.

 

Jill Winans stated they hope to be open in June and to spay and neuter 6,000 animals per year.  She had been in contact with a clinic in Prineville, Oregon.  She noted in 2006 the clinic decided to adopt the no kill philosophy and as a result, the adoption for cats (including feral) have a 97 percent adoption rate. She said that spay and neuter is working.  She commented that money is not the issue but commitment is.

 

Diana Robertson commented that no kill means no killing of adoptable or behaviorally or medically treatable animals.  She stated that no kill saves money and improves the publicís perception of the shelter.  She asked on the behalf of the No Kill Community Coalition to ask the Commissioners to require that a thorough impartial public investigation be immediately undertaken to determine which LCARA staff members ordered killings of cats and why no life saving alternatives were considered.  She also wanted the Board to pass the no kill philosophy resolution or amend it if they think it needs to be amended.  She wanted this done at the earliest opportunity.  She indicated they have been waiting for three months to meet with the Board about this.

 

Vicki Higgins, Florence Humane Society, encouraged the Board to adopt a no kill philosophy. She stated the Florence Humane Society gets no government money and they do a lot of fund raising.  She indicated that they have offsite adoptions at Petsmart in Eugene.  She added that volunteers from Florence drive the animals to Eugene.  She stated they have a thrift store in Old Town and 30 percent of the operating budget comes from the sales from the thrift store.  She said their operating budget is $350,000 and they are truly a no kill shelter.

 

Kathy Bill, Stray Cat Alliance, said since 2001 they have assisted the low income cat givers in Eugene and Springfield in altering over 1,800 cats.  She said they get 20 calls a week for low cost spay and neuter services.  She said they currently charge $20 for a neuter and $45 for a spay. She noted that half of the people could not afford that amount of money.  She said they absorb the costs from the fund raising events.  She noted these cats are stray and abandoned animals in trailer parks, apartment houses and other low income neighborhoods.  She added that they also provide emergency vet care for over 500 cats.  She said they also refer and help people find homes and placement for cats abandoned in their neighborhoods. She said their community needs to have solutions and Stray Cat Alliance is not big enough to fix every cat or find homes for the cats.  She commented that the low income people have pets and they are trying to solve the overpopulation problem with no resources or help from the communities.  She stated they have to work with city and county government to get the work done.

 

John Archer said without the no kill and neuter and adoption programs in place, they are not inclined to turn animals over to LCARA, that they care for them themselves and make the effort to find them homes. He said they do it out of pocket. He indicated that animal professionals volunteer time, goods, services and money to help the animals in Lane County.  He commented that they already pay large sums through taxes, licenses and fees to support the services.  He said they find their expertise is continually questioned or ignored.   He stated that killing animals for any reason other than for health is inexcusable.  He said the only realistic action is to adopt a no kill and spay and neuter resolution as immediately as possible.

 

Johnni Prince, Greenhill, said they are the largest animal shelter in Lane County.  She said they have a serious overpopulation problem in Lane County.  She said there are too many animals for the number of available homes.  She commented that there are two critical and urgent needs in Lane County.  One is services for stray cats.  She said that Greenhill fields calls every day from people asking what they could do about stray cats.  She said they can and must do better.   She asked the Board to take a leadership role and encourage every city in Lane County to establish animal control services for their community.  He said the second issue is the need for low cost, high volume spay and neuter services for cats and dogs. She said it is time for the cities and County Administrator to notice that this is a serious problem and their responsibility to address it, and it will not go away until forward thinking steps are taken to correct it. 

 

Katherine Long commented that killing animals unnecessarily is something the public should not tolerate.  She said killing animals and not telling the truth about it cannot be tolerated by any community in the country.   She wanted Lane County to embrace and employ a no kill philosophy and establish accountability standards by which to measure the progress.  She stated that concrete goals must be established to create a better balance between animal care and animal control in order to improve service delivery and to meet public expectations.  She said the goals must be made into official policy with timelines and measurable performance standards.  She added it must be clear that the shelterís leadership will be held responsible for attainment of the goals.  She thought the first step would be to reject killing as the primary shelter population management tool.  She said no kill is a humane, sustainable, cost effective model that fulfills a fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers.  She believed the no kill/neuter/adopt resolution of Lane County provides the template for success in this pursuit.  She requested that in the near future the Board discuss, understand and at an appropriate time vote on and pass this resolution.

 

Fleenor wanted LCARA to become its own department so they would have closer connections to the Board of Commissioners.

 

With regard to accountability, Wellington explained that they have performance measures.  plus their quarterly reports.  He commented that they will not kill animals for space. 

 

Dwyer commented that it is not acceptable to kill an animal that is adoptable.  He said they need to be more sensitive to define aggression with animals, and how to deal with it.  He said they need to work together and no kill was a good goal.  He said there will be times when they will want to eliminate an animal out of mercy, as they donít want animals to suffer needlessly.  He stated they need to spay and neuter dogs and cats and keep track of dogs when they are adopted.  He thought micro chipping was a good idea.  He stated they needed to take positive action to fix the deficiencies and work for the common good of the community.

 

Green asked why they needed to change from enforcement to a welfare agency. 

 

Fulkerson said in a welfare type operation, there are more attitudes from the ground up for retention of the animals to be sure they are treated properly and have the opportunity to be adopted.

 

Green commented that getting to zero was better than stating they were a no kill agency.

 

Sorenson indicated the population is concerned about how animals are treated.   He asked that the Board be given the answers to these questions: for Ms. Winans, he asked within LCARA and the budget they allocate to LCARA, if funding should be reallocated to low cost and no cost spay and neuter clinics and to what benefits they would see and how quick they would see them.  He asked Wellington if Lane County had the legal authority to apply animal rules and regulations within cities.  He wanted to know if the Board has the authority and under what circumstances.  He asked if the Board of Commissioners in its role as a public health entity or county government asserts itself in that area with the police powers given to them by the state.  He asked why Greenhill opposes the no kill philosophy. He wanted to know what barriers the humane society in San Diego had to overcome to get a dramatic reduction in euthanasia.   He asked what the next steps should be for the Board.

 

Bartlett thought the Board should consider a directive that incorporates and instructs LCARA within its abilities to implement the timelines.

 

Stewart commented that from two years ago to today they had made steps with the implementation of tracking and they are working hard to accomplish those.  He was concerned about the overpopulation of animals in Lane County.  He said he wants to work towards an end.  He is supportive of reviewing limit laws, foster home networks and having hours that are more conducive to the public. He was supportive of trying to improve the situation. He said they should review the no kill coalition and how they could move forward with it. 

 

There being no further business, Commissioner Stewart adjourned the meeting at 8:15 p.m.

 

Melissa Zimmer

Recording Secretary