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Pets In The Recession: City Shelter Forced To Limit Service

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, December 6, 2010
by James Morrison
The Sacramento City Animal Shelter's problems are two-fold.  More animals are coming into the shelter because people can't afford to take care of them.  And budgets cuts have reduced the staff here by 20 percent in the past couple years.  
"It's not a secret that most social service programs are struggling, mental health . . . medical coverage.  All of us are struggling.  And animals are being affected as well.  And animals aren't the highest on the list of people's priorities."
Penny Cistaro is the animal care services manager for Sacramento.  She says the city shelter is staffed at less than half of the nationally recommended level. Volunteers help ensure animals in the shelter are walked and fed, and their kennels are cleaned daily.  The real impact of the cuts is outside the shelter. 
"We have no ability to do any proactive enforcement.  It's all reactive.  It's complaint driven.  So, the dog that someone calls in because it's running at large.  The officers are so backed up with emergencies or higher priority calls that they can never get to the dog that's running at large." 
There's another problem too.
"Our adoptions are dropping."
The 250 animals in the shelter are typically less adoptable than the animals you'll find at Happy Tails or the Sacramento SPCA.  That's because the city shelter deals mostly with strays.  Out of the 11 thousand animals a year that come into the shelter, about 90 percent are strays. So the euthanasia rate is typically high. 
"I would say that about 35 percent of the animals leave.  So that's about a 65 percent euthanasia rate.  That's a high euthanasia rate." 
And if an animal comes in that is sick or injured it usually must be killed.  There's no money for veterinary care. 
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