Ventura County reaches "no kill" achievement
Shelter focused more on adoption, Paw Works finds alternative placements for hundreds
By Chris O'Neal 07/31/2014
The Ventura County Animal Services, in cooperation with the nonprofit Paw Works, has reached a countywide “no kill” status, making Ventura the second county in California to have done so, according to the VCAS.
“No kill” is defined as more than 90 percent of animals that come into the shelter, including dogs and cats, leaving the shelter to either an adoptive home or a rescue rather than being euthanized. The number reflects the total intake of dogs and cats, both strays and owner surrenders, but does not reflect the number of animals euthanized at owner request, which includes those animals that have been diagnosed with a terminal illness or untreatable behavioral problems.
In other words, while in June a total of 90 dogs and cats were euthanized, 36 of those were done by owner request. The adjusted number of shelter euthanasia for June was 54. Tara Diller, director of the VCAS, says that the shelter will not euthanize an animal without first verifying that the animal is in an untreatable condition.
The number is based on an average of monthly percentages. For instance, January had a “live release rate” of 92.8 percent while June was an even 92 percent. The lowest was in May, with only 89.6 percent, according to reports from the VCAS.
“For an open facility that cannot turn away any animals, and we get in anywhere from 500 to 1,000 animals a month, that’s a big feat,” said Diller. “We’re a government entity; we don’t have the option to turn away animals.”
Oxnard alone makes up 42 percent of intake at the shelter, and during the summer, those numbers can increase dramatically countywide. For the first six months of the year, on average, VCAS has reached a 91.4 percent no-kill rate even with the influx of animals that began in May.
COO Chad Atkins and CEO Christina Morgan are the founding partners and directors of Paw Works. Atkins says that working in conjunction with the county animal shelters mean more options for at-risk animals.
“We’ll from time to time receive a list of animals that the county feels they can no longer give the proper treatment or to house, whether medical or behavioral, and we’ll see if there’s something we can do,” said Atkins. “We’re able to make a huge difference on a much smaller budget.”
Since January, when Paw Works was established, 442 animals have been “brought to safety” either by placing them in foster homes or by placing them into a rescue from the Camarillo animal shelter to Paw Works.
In 2012, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors announced a commitment to a “no-kill” philosophy as part of merging Animal Services into the county’s Public Health Department. In order to reach the goal set by the board, the shelter has had to make drastic changes not only to the way it deals with the increasing number of animals there, but also in the way it enforces county law by transitioning to a more adoption-centered approach.
The changes also included a separate kennel for dogs who contract kennel cough — once a death sentence for animals in the shelter. Now, they’re given time to recover away from the general population.
Diller says that the way in which the shelter interacts with the community has been a boon for adoptions as well.
“It starts with a change of mindset, and then with training your staff and the addition of programs,” said Diller. “We believe in bringing the shelter to the community rather than the community to the shelter.”
One of the programs is a K9 Cardio option that allows county residents to visit the shelter and take a dog for a walk, and the numerous enrichment programs that keep animals healthy in their kennels through a balanced diet and play time. Volunteers are also tasked at walking into the community for “mobile adoptions” wherein interested parties can learn about the animals in the shelter ready that are to be brought home.
Meet Your Match classes pair animals with people based on personality and compatibility.
“It starts with a change of mind,” said Diller. “We’re committed to this, and then I think the rest just starts to flow.”
For more information on the VCAS, visit www.vchca.org, and for more information on Paw Works, Inc., visit www.pawworks.org