A Real Look A Your Local Dog Shelter-They Need To Operate Under The Same Rules as Dog Breeders

Posted on 05/15/2009

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THE GRASS VALLEY ANIMAL SHELTER 

Missed Opportunities 

 

 

 

 

SUMMARY 

 

The Nevada County Grand Jury (Jury) investigated and compared public animal shelters 

within Nevada County.  The Jury visited the three public animal control/shelter facilities in 

the County and determined that the Grass Valley Shelter has room for improvement. 

Deficiencies include a high rate of euthanasia, lack of a fully-accountable spay/neuter 

program, inadequate health and welfare practices and incomplete recordkeeping practices. 

This shelter also misses out on the potential benefit of volunteers.  

 

 

REASON FOR INVESTIGATION 

 

Three public animal shelters exist within the County of Nevada: Grass Valley, Truckee, and 

the third services Nevada County. (Grass Valley provides animal control services for Nevada 

City.) In recent years animal control in the County has received considerable attention in the 

local press. Additionally, after 37 years under the direction of one individual, a management 

change has recently taken place at the Grass Valley shelter. The Jury determined this justified 

a review. 

 

 

BACKGROUND 

 

Animal Control personnel of the three jurisdictions have similar enforcement and control 

responsibilities. Sheltering is handled in differing ways.  Emphasis of the Jury’s investigation 

was on sheltering. Sheltering includes the intake and disposition of strays and unwanted 

animals.  

 

Truckee Animal Services has two animal control officers, one kennel attendant and one 

administrative secretary. Animal Services in the Town of Truckee are managed by the 

Community Development Department.  The shelter took in 410 animals in fiscal year 

2007/08. 

 

Nevada County Animal Control and Protection has four animal control officers, one field 

services officer, 1.5 FTE kennel attendant positions and two office assistants. The Nevada 

County Sheriff’s Office oversees the activities of Animal Control and Protection at the 

County shelter.  The shelter took in 1,433 animals in fiscal year 2007/08. 

 

The Grass Valley Animal Shelter  

Grand Jury Reports 2008-09 

  Page 1 

Grass Valley Animal Control has three animal control officer positions and limited clerical 

services.  Animal Control reports to the Grass Valley Police Department.  The shelter took in 

416 animals in fiscal year 2007/08. 

 

 

PROCEDURE FOLLOWED 

 

The Jury conducted its investigation through interviews, and Jury teams made visits to the 

shelters over a period of several months.  The Jury interviewed managers and staff members 

of the shelters as well as animal welfare advocates.  The Jury reviewed a variety of 

regulatory and advisory documents from sources including:  the Humane Society of the 

United States, the National Animal Control Association, American Society for the Prevention 

of Cruelty to Animals and the American Humane Association, among others. 

 

Animal intake/disposition records, provided by staff of the jurisdictions involved, were 

inspected. The Jury also examined environmental health and treatment of the animals at the 

shelters as well as euthanasia rates. The spay/neuter practices of each shelter were also 

assessed. Based on this information, the Grass Valley shelter operations stood in contrast to 

the other public shelters within Nevada County. The focus of this report is the Grass Valley 

Animal Shelter.  The two other public shelters in Nevada County are referenced as needed 

for comparison purposes. 

 

For ease of understanding, the report is divided into four categories: 

 

A. Spay/Neuter Programs 

B. Euthanasia Rates 

C. Health and Welfare of Animals 

D. Records Management 

 

All findings refer to the Grass Valley Animal Shelter unless otherwise noted. 

 

 

A.  SPAY/NEUTER PROGRAMS 

 

When and if the population of the County of Nevada exceeds 100,000, the three public  

shelters will be required to spay/neuter all animals prior to release, barring a medical reason 

not to do so [California Law, Food and Agriculture Codes Section 30503 (dogs) and Section 

31751.3 (cats)].  Both The Town of Truckee and the Nevada County shelter voluntarily 

comply now, ensuring that all stray and unwanted animals are spayed/neutered prior to 

adoption. 

 

As of January 1, 2008, the State Department of Finance estimated Nevada County’s 

population to be 99,186.  

 

The Grass Valley Animal Shelter  

Grand Jury Reports 2008-09 

  Page 2 

The Jury recognizes that overpopulation of animals is a significant problem, and a 

contributing factor to animal cruelty.  The California Legislature recognized this fact as 

reflected in Section 1 of historical and statutory notes, Stats. 1998, c. 747 (AB 1856): 

 

Section  1(a): “The Legislature finds and declares that overpopulation of dogs and  cats in 

California is a problem of great public concern.  The overpopulation causes public health 

problems, adversely affects city and county animal control departments, and results in 

needlessly euthanized dogs and cats.  

  

Section  1(b): It is the intent of the Legislature, by enacting this act, to reduce the number of 

unwanted dogs and cats in California.  In order to reduce the number of stray dogs and cats 

on the streets, and the number euthanized in shelters each year, the birth rate must be 

reduced.  Although the point may seem obvious, humans generally give birth to a single 

offspring, while dogs and cats give birth to litters.  Additionally, dogs and cats reach sexual 

maturity relatively young and their gestation periods are comparatively short. 

 

The single most effective prevention of overpopulation among dogs and cats is spaying and 

neutering.” 

 

 

Findings 

 

A – 1. The Grass Valley shelter does not spay/neuter animals prior to adoption. 

A – 2. The Grass Valley shelter collects a refundable spay/neuter deposit when intact animals 

are adopted. 

A – 3. Grass Valley Department of Finance records indicate that not all adopters collect 

spay/neuter deposit refunds. 

 

Conclusions 

 

A –1. Reliance on adopters to spay/neuter their animals is not a guarantee it will be done. 

A – 2. The Grass Valley shelter does not know how many of the animals adopted from  their 

facility were spayed/neutered. 

 

Recommendations 

 

A – 1. The Grass Valley shelter should institute a program to spay/neuter all animals prior  to 

adoption. 

 

 

B.  EUTHANASIA RATES 

 

All shelters find it necessity to euthanize some animals, primarily for medical reasons and/or 

aggression. 

 

The Grass Valley Animal Shelter  

Grand Jury Reports 2008-09 

  Page 3 

Findings 

 

B –1. The Grass Valley shelter routinely euthanizes feral cats; the other shelters in the 

County do not. 

B – 2. Three days are allowed to assess whether a cat is feral. 

B – 3. The shelter took in 416 animals in fiscal year 2007/2008 

B – 4. During fiscal year 2007/2008, 85 cats and 13 dogs were euthanized. 

B– 5.  Using information provided by the Grass Valley shelter, the Jury calculated a 

euthanasia rate of 24%. This is in contrast to the Nevada County shelter euthanasia 

rate (3.1 %) and the Truckee shelter rate (1.7 %) for the same time period. 

 

 

Conclusions 

 

B- 1. The euthanasia rate at the Grass Valley shelter is significantly higher than the other 

shelters in Nevada County. 

B- 2. The lower rate of euthanasia at the other two shelters implies there are alternatives to 

euthanasia. 

 

Recommendation 

 

B- 1.The Grass Valley Animal Shelter should consult with other shelters regarding 

alternatives to euthanasia. 

 

 

C.  HEALTH AND WELFARE OF ANIMALS 

 

People on-site at the shelters handle the day-to-day responsibilities of running a shelter. 

However, human interaction with the animals is equally important. Animal stress is 

alleviated, intellectual stimulation and socialization is provided and animals are afforded 

more opportunities for exercise. The Town of Truckee and Nevada County both use 

volunteers to supplement staff and care for the animals.  As stated in the Humane Society of 

the United States Guidelines for the Operation of an animal shelter, the shelter “…should be 

a place of safety and comfort for the animals.” 

 

For each of the shelters, the Jury observed that kennels were clean, and the basics of food and 

water were provided. 

 

 

Findings 

 

C – 1. The Grass Valley shelter does not use a volunteer program. Truckee and Nevada 

County shelters have active volunteer programs to supplement staff. 

C – 2.  Hours for public access to the Grass Valley shelter are limited and inconsistent. 

C – 3.  Animals are not vaccinated and not generally quarantined upon entry to the shelter. 

C – 4.  No common area exists for cats to move about for exercise and socialization. 

The Grass Valley Animal Shelter  

Grand Jury Reports 2008-09 

  Page 4 

C – 5. Dog enclosures do provide both indoor and outdoor accommodations. However, there 

is no established program for walking the dogs. 

C – 6.  Limited or no bedding for the animals was observed. 

C – 7. A small amount of litter is provided in each cat cage. 

C – 8. Unused space in the shelter was observed. 

C – 9. Public boarding is allowed. 

 

 

Conclusions 

 

C – 1.The Grass Valley shelter’s decision to not use volunteers limits its ability to offer 

increased and consistent hours for the public, needed exercise for the animals and 

day-to-day assistance for a limited staff. 

C – 2. Failure to vaccinate animals increases the probability of spreading disease throughout 

the shelter. 

C – 3. There is minimal socialization and exercise for both dogs and cats. 

C – 4. Bedding is inadequate to provide comfort. 

C – 5. Cats are not provided sufficient litter. 

C – 6. Space is available in the shelter to provide common areas for animals.  

C – 7. It is inappropriate for a publicly funded facility to compete with the private sector for 

the boarding of animals. 

 

 

Recommendations 

 

The Grass Valley Animal Shelter should: 

C – 1. Create a volunteer program at the Grass Valley Animal Shelter. Neighboring animal 

shelters could provide assistance in developing and establishing a program. 

C – 2. Use volunteers to enhance and provide twice daily socialization and exercise for dogs. 

C – 3. Extend and provide consistent public hours at the shelter. 

C – 4. Vaccinate for basic diseases. 

C – 5. Provide adequate bedding for the comfort of the dogs and cats. 

C – 6. Ensure there is sufficient litter in the cat cages to contain excreta. 

C – 7. Create a common area for cats utilizing available space. 

C – 8. Discontinue public boarding. 

 

 

D.  RECORDS MANAGEMENT 

 

 

Findings 

 

D – 1. An analysis of the Grass Valley shelter’s intake records for fiscal year 2007/08 

showed that intake/disposition records were not being completely filled out. These 

records are hand written and less than half of the animals could be tracked from 

intake to disposition. 

The Grass Valley Animal Shelter  

Grand Jury Reports 2008-09 

  Page 5 

The Grass Valley Animal Shelter  

Grand Jury Reports 2008-09 

  Page 6  

D – 2.  No recent fee analysis has been conducted. 

 

 

Conclusions 

 

D – 1. Thorough record keeping is necessary for proper management of the shelter.  

D – 2.  Missing items on forms, such as bite history, present liability issues.  

D – 3.  Increased fees could defray the cost of spaying/neutering the animals prior to 

adoption.  

 

 

Recommendations 

 

The Grass Valley Animal Shelter should: 

D – 1.  Completely fill out and automate records so that each animal can be tracked from 

intake to disposition. 

D – 2.  Review and update the fee schedule to determine if fees are sufficient. 

 

 

REQUIRED RESPONSE 

 

City Council, City of Grass Valley  September 14, 2009 

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