ANIMAL HEALTH AND REGULATION
With an impending vote by the Board of Supervisor’s on the continuance of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the County of Santa Barbara and the Dog Adoption and Welfare Group (DAWG), the Grand Jury felt compelled to issue an interim report in advance of the final report on Animal Health and Regulation (AH&R).
Although negotiations are currently underway between interested parties, the objective of this interim report is to provide the Jury’s perspective as to whether continuance of this contract with a volunteer organization is appropriate, as well as to explain some of the factors that contributed to the signing of the original MOU in 1997.
Members of the Grand Jury conferred with representatives of DAWG, the new Director of AH&R for the County of Santa Barbara, County Counsel, a member of the Board of Supervisors, as well as other interested parties.
The 1999-2000 Grand Jury has found that the new Director of Animal Health and Regulation is unable to perform her duties effectively in regard to volunteer services. The current MOU with DAWG prevents the director from managing volunteer services at the County animal shelter in Santa Barbara. This includes being in charge of any groups or individuals that would like to volunteer at the shelter.
The Jury has determined that discord at the Santa Barbara shelter is due, in part, to the MOU with the DAWG.
Since 1992, DAWG has raised money, built a new kennel and contributed thousands of hours of volunteer service including foster care, kennel boarding, veterinarian services and participated in the adoption process. Their assistance began at a time when the shelter was understaffed.
The MOU was written in 1997. It seemed the appropriate action at the time in order to achieve a degree of stability at the Santa Barbara shelter, since there had been more than 20 directors in 25 years. It was intended to delineate the responsibilities that were to be carried out by shelter staff and those responsibilities that would be the sole province of the volunteer group. Among the rights conveyed to DAWG was the right to say who shall and shall not volunteer at the Santa Barbara shelter.
In 1999, with DAWG’s participation and input, the County hired a new Director of AH&R. It is the obligation of the BOS to give the new director the opportunity to fully discharge her duties.
The Grand Jury believes one component of her duties is the coordination and supervision of all who wish to volunteer at County shelters.
It is the Grand Jury’s opinion that a public agency should be open to all volunteers desiring to serve.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Finding 1: The MOU with DAWG conveys critical County responsibilities to a volunteer organization
Recommendation 1: The BOS should not continue this contract with DAWG or enter into any agreement with a volunteer group that undermines the authority of County staff.
Finding 2: There is an absence of current written policy for AH&R.
Recommendation 2: A new policy manual for Animal Health & Regulation should be created that specifically outlines procedures and responsibilities in order to assure the health and safety of volunteers, employees and animals.
Finding 3: The MOU with DAWG excludes all volunteers except DAWG members.
Recommendation 3: Any volunteer program should be placed under the auspices of the Director of Animal Health & Regulation, and should be opened to all volunteers.
Board of Supervisors (Findings 1,2 and 3) and Recommendations (1,2 and 3)
Animal Health and Regulation (Findings 1,2 and 3) Recommendations 1,2 and 3)