by James Morrison
The Sacramento County Animal Shelter is barely a year old.
Just inside the facility you'll find comfortable, well-lighted cat
and dog habitats that house the more "adoptable" pets. But,
in the back of the shelter, there's row after row of caged kennels
full of dogs and cats . . . and even rabbits.
[sound from the shelter]
Carl Simpson is the director of the $22 million, 50,000 square
foot shelter. He says the shelter's problems are
growing. Not only is the county providing less money to
support the shelter, but the number of animals being surrendered is
"A young African American gentleman pulled his car up in our
circle there. And he said that he had just lost his job and
he was about to be evicted from his house and as he was talking the
tears were welling up in his eyes."
Stories like this are common for Simpson. About 30
animals a day are coming into the facility. Last week
the shelter had 450 animals in 311 kennels.
"So sometimes we're doubling up in kennels. And in shelter
medicine what I've learned so far is that's not a good
scenario. The larger your population is the more susceptible
they are to disease. We've had several outbreaks of Parvo
here. That's a deadly disease for dogs."
And when diseases break out in the shelter all the exposed
animals have to be killed. All the affected areas have to be
thoroughly cleaned too. There are only four kennel
attendants assigned to feeding and cleaning up after the
Simpson says there should be at least three times that many,
but the staff here has been cut in half in the past year, from 57
to 28. Now everyone helps out with the cleaning.
Simpson points out that radio dispatcher Laura Badeker is talking
on a walkie talkie as she sprays out a kennel with a
"And so she's in contact with the officers in the field
even though she's in the kennel actually cleaning the
Animal control officers also help clean kennels and feed
animals, which Simpson says is a strain because there is usually
only one animal control officer in the field for each
"So what that means is that that officer has 900 square
miles of responsibility."
And that officer is usually backlogged with up to 150 calls
before he starts his shift.
Simpson says he doesn't expect the shelter's funding problems
to get better anytime soon. He's been successfully
fundraising for the past year, but the shelter is still struggling
"We have 15,000 animals that come through here a
year. And if we fail, if this shelter fails, then the SPCA
and the city are somehow going to have to absorb those animals that
aren't coming to the county anymore."
But the other shelters are also overwhelmed with
animals. And that's bad news for pets. For every 100
animals that come into the county shelter, only 35 leave
[Barking dogs out]