Animal services

Del Norte County Seeks to Restructure Animal Services Department | Wild Rivers Outpost

Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, July 12 at 3:36 p.m.

Del Norte County is looking to restructure its animal services department

Volunteers bring dogs from the Del Norte County Animal Shelter to the Prison Paws Partnership Program in December. | File photo: Jessica C. Andrews

On Tuesday, Del Norte County supervisors instructed staff to move forward with a restructuring of the animal services department — something one volunteer said was badly needed.

Volunteers do a lot of the work at the Del Norte County Animal Shelter, according to Laureen Yamakido. With 40 dogs at the pound, a supervisor and an animal control officer, it is the volunteers who care for the animals, facilitate transfers to rescue shelters as well as adoptions, she said.

Volunteers are developing a site plan for the shelter‘s new kennels, Yamakido told supervisors. And because of the “outdated way they keep records at the pound,” she took on the task herself.

“So far this year, 189 dogs have entered this county, three horses, four goats, two pigs and one rabbit,” Yamakido told supervisors.

The Humane Society of Del Norte neutered or neutered 59 animals this year. Volunteers have transferred 77 dogs to rescue shelters so far this year and adopted 25. But the animal services department needs to be reassessed, revamped and properly staffed, she said.

“The volunteers are exhausted,” she says. “The staff is exhausted.

The current structure of the animal services department, which brings it under the Del Norte Agricultural Commission, is rare, according to county administrative officer Neal Lopez. There are only three other counties in California with a similar setup, he said.

County staff identified through their preliminary research at least two or three potential solutions, Lopez said, but they wanted the board of supervisors to instruct staff to investigate further.

Lopez said he plans to have at least two alternate department structures on the oversight board by Aug. 23.

Justin Riggs, the current director of animal services, is also the county’s commissioner of agriculture and sealer of weights and measures. According to Lopez, Riggs is in favor of the county removing animal services from his direct oversight.

District 2 Supervisor Valerie Starkey discussed Yamakido’s unofficial role as the animal shelter‘s records manager and asked how the restructuring of animal services would take into account the work she and other volunteers do.

“If we are looking to place (Animal Services) in another department, are we also looking at how all the work done by volunteers should be done by employees paid by the county?” Starkey asked. “Are we going to include all that in this restructuring?

The county has been trying to procure a case management system for the animal services department for about a year, according to Lopez. This system will keep track of much of what Yamakido is currently tracking, Lopez said. He said the county had identified two case management systems and was seeking a third quote under its procurement rules.

“If we can only find two, we’ll work with the information we have,” Lopez said.

Recruiting and retaining staff has also been difficult, Lopez said. Part-time positions have been “impossible to fill”, he said. The county added an animal services supervisor position for the first time in about 20 years.

“We have three animal service positions, but we’re still only able to fill two, even though we’ve been constantly recruiting since then,” Lopez said.

Over the past year, staffing shortages in the Animal Services Department have slowed the response to complaints from Fort Dick residents that nuisance dogs were roaming free and killing their pet cats.

A staff shortage has also made it difficult for the department to respond to cases involving livestock, Riggs told the Wild Rivers Outpost, following the seizure of five horses, a foal, five goats and a pig from Smith River in April. At that time, the department had no staff with large livestock experience and had limited capacity to house large livestock.