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Santa Barbara County Animal Services Working on Changes Recommended By Humane Society Audit

An independent report was issued earlier this year with more than 450 recommendations on how Santa Barbara County Animal Services can improve their operations, and county supervisors got an update on that process Tuesday.

An audit was conducted by the American Humane Association earlier this year, which did a comprehensive evaluation of the county’s animal services program.

The AHA sent officials who came in January and February and spent five days evaluating operations. A veterinarian came in April to inspect the facilities as well.

The report came back with a long list of things that could be changed or improved upon, and an oversight team was formed to see that the recommendations are put into practice.

“We really have a commitment to make those changes happen,” Public Health spokeswoman Susan Klein-Rothschild said. Animal services is part of the Public Health Department.

The audit was requested because of tension from several different animals and their owners, as well as difficulties between different stakeholders, she said.

“We wanted to look at how can we do best practices,” she said.

The process has been a good one, though the recommendations may take a while to implement, she said. 

Supervisors voted unanimously to receive the report and asked for an update in January, when officials will talk about what tasks have been accomplished. 

At that time, the county will also look into options options to change the governance of animal services, including privatizing the department or looking at a joint powers option, which would allow cities and municipalities to share in the governance of the department.

Some recommendations have already been implemented, such as weighing animals on intake and promoting overlooked animals for adoption, but others will take longer.

To read the entire task list, click here.

Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting brought out public speakers, some of whom said they were “cautiously optimistic” about improvement for the department, which Klein-Rothschild was heartened by.

Some of the recommendations involve hiring for some key positions, including a registered veterinary technician. The person chosen for that job should begin in the next few weeks, Klein-Rothschild said.

The county is still looking a behavioral training coordinator and a director of veterinary medicine.

“We are hoping to get those filled very soon,” she said.

Many of the recommendations fell into the category of shelter medicine, and the hope is that the new hires will be able to help implement those changes.

“Four hundred and fifty recommendations is huge,” she said.

Between volunteers and staff at animal services, and between the organizations that work for animal welfare, “there’s a history of tension and fractured culture,” she said, which the findings highlighted.

An outside facilitator has been brought into help the groups work together in a positive way.

“It’s a lot of passionate people who care a lot and they weren’t able to work together for common goals,” Klein-Rothschild said.  

“It’s not that anybody is to blame or wrong, but when things aren’t clear… we get frustrated.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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