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Advocates still calling for change Orange County Animal Services

Four months after a dog was accidentally euthanized, animal-welfare groups say more needs to be done to improve shelter

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“Every time we have a meeting, they agree that things need to be done,” she says. “But nothing happens. The window dressing gets prettier, but nothing inside is changing.”

As a result, a loose-knit group of animal-welfare advocates have been holding so-called “sit-ins” at meetings of the OCAS Advisory Board, the community-based body that makes recommendations to the county about how the shelter should operate. They insist that the shelter needs to be more proactive about finding a replacement for Ridgway, and that it needs to take decisive measures to curb the number of animals it has to euthanize every month. At the board’s Dec. 17 meeting, they plan to urge the county to get its mobile spay and neuter clinic – which the county owns but hasn’t been using because it has been in a state of disrepair since 2012 – up and running. They have been gathering signatures on a petition to request that the county repair the van and get it back on the road.

Orange County resident Drew Paul, a local consultant who adopted both of his dogs from OCAS and says his experience with the shelter has not been particularly negative, says his concern is that OCAS doesn’t do a very good job promoting itself or the animals it has for adoption. He questions how many people actually know where the shelter is located (it’s on 2769 Conroy Road, near the Mall at Millenia), and he points out that for many seeking pets, the hours it is open make it hard to visit or adopt. Currently, OCAS is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s closed on Sunday. Extending shelter hours is one of the measures Ralls and shelter administration have promised to work on. But Paul and others wonder: What is taking so long?

“I understand logistics, I understand that there’s a lot to do,” says Paul. “The thing is, any time there’s a necessity for change to happen, it’s been an inordinately slow methodology. Nothing happens quickly there, and quite frankly, most of the decisions that need to be made don’t need to take that long.”

Paul Wean, chairman of the county’s Animal Services Advisory Board, a community-based board that makes recommendations to the county about how OCAS operates, says change is happening – but very slowly. “And what is happening is not enough to fix the problems OCAS has,” he says. The advisory board has no authority – it can only advise. But he says it is pushing for critical improvements, some of which are not things that are within OCAS’ control – first and foremost, he says, county government needs to come up with a breeding-registration program and spay/neuter ordinance to reduce the number of animals in the region. On an average month, the shelter easily takes in more than 1,000 animals (during October, by the shelter’s own statistics, it received 946 walk-in surrenders and 753 strays picked up on the street), and Wean says he’s convinced that backyard breeding is the reason those numbers are so high. “We need to regulate breeding to control the population of animals,” he says. “We need to require that breeders be registered and that all animals be spayed and neutered, with some exceptions for show dogs and for health reasons.” Wean’s chairmanship ends this month, but he says that he will continue to push for countywide spay/neuter legislation and breeder regulation.

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