Adoptions are up, the use of euthanasia is down

New data from Oakland Animal Services shows the city-run shelter is slaughtering fewer dogs than in previous years. Part of the reduction can be attributed to a cultural shift in the ministry’s enforcement approach, shelter manager Ann Dunn said Monday.

Oakland animal control officers are taking a less punitive approach. Where previously dogs were taken indiscriminately from low-income families on suspicion of neglect, the department now strives to distinguish between loving families without the means to care for their animal and situations of neglect. and willful abuse.

Providing food, shelter and education instead of snatching a dog resulted in a 23% reduction in animal seizures in 2021, Dunn said when reporting to a city council committee on Monday. And a program placing dogs that aren’t doing well in a shelter — because they’re poorly trained, for example, or too big — into foster homes has instead helped increase adoption rates.

It has also led to a dramatic drop in the number of animals dropped off at the shelter.

“For a municipal shelter, our euthanasia rate is extremely low. This is by far the lowest on record in Oakland’s history,” Dunn told members of the City Council’s Life Enrichment Committee.

This represents a remarkable turnaround for a department that recently faced a lawsuit from a former director who alleged screeners neglected and abused cats and dogs and bullied others who tried to arrest their behaviour.

Until 2014, animal control was the responsibility of the Oakland Police Department. Even after it was established as a stand-alone service, screening officers continued to wear police uniforms and some refused to undergo training in the newer, more humane procedures, according to the lawsuit. The city settled the case for $150,000 in December.

Ann Dunn, director of the Oakland Animal Shelter. Credit: Amir Aziz

The allegations predate Dunn’s arrival in 2020 as Director of Animal Services. The department, Dunn said, has undergone a transition from a shelter-based model to a community-based model, expanding weekly hours of operation from 8 p.m. to 42 p.m., allowing walk-in adoption appointments on weeknights and weekends, and restructuring the organization to have more animal care workers and veterinarians.

The majority of people who have used OAS’s services — primarily to return pets, find lost pets, or seek veterinary care — are low-income or come from primarily underserved areas of Oakland.

“Rather than thinking of itself as an animal shelter to take in animals,” Dunn said, the operation is now more focused on helping people with limited resources “to keep their animals so they don’t have to. never to come to the shelter”.

Between 2019 and 2021, dog adoption increased from 14% to 39%, while the percentage of cats that found homes increased from 41% to 47%, according to a report by Dunn. (Dunn said 2020 was not a reliable year to watch due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

Although euthanasia has dropped dramatically, its use is unlikely to end completely. Many animals come to the shelter with life-threatening illnesses and others are seriously injured from things like car collisions.

Of the 2,297 dogs rescued in 2021, 166 or 7.2% were euthanized, compared to 16.6% in 2019. The number of cats slaughtered also decreased, although at a slower rate, from 9.4% in 2019 to 7.8% in 2021.

Last year, animal control officers investigated 313 animal bites and 681 reports of cruelty or neglect, and of those, 20 cases were referred to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. .

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