2014-2015 Orange County Grand Jury
Orange County Animal Care (OCAC) is charged with caring for lost and
abandoned animals from the unincorporated areas of Orange County (County) as well
as from the 18 cities that contract with the County for animal shelter services. The
Orange County Animal Shelter (Animal Shelter) was built seven decades ago. Today,
the 74-year-old facility is rundown, overcrowded, and unable to sustain the primary
responsibility of OCAC: compassionate care of the County’s companion animals. The
old, dilapidated, inadequate facility fails to provide a safe, clean environment for staff,
volunteers, and the public, and it is unable to provide adequate care of the animals.
For more than 20 years, the Orange County Board of Supervisors (BOS) has
been keenly aware of the real and immediate need for a new shelter facility. In fact, in
1995 the BOS set aside seed money ($5 million) for the construction of a new animal
shelter and directed County executives to move forward with the project. To date,
nothing substantive has been accomplished toward achievement of this task.
In 1999, when the United States Marine Corps closed the Tustin Air Station, the
County agreed to accept from the Department of the Navy (DoN) a five-acre site at the
Marine base for a future animal shelter facility. However, long-lingering environmental
clean-up issues still need to be addressed by the DoN before conveyance of the
property can take place. Environmental mitigation of contaminated ground water at the
site has been underway for 15 years, and the DoN cannot even predict a completion
date. Meanwhile, the County has deferred any action with regard to the new shelter,
preferring to wait for completion of the DoN’s clean-up of the Tustin site. The County
has no backup plan or secondary site selected despite possible locations such as
County-owned property at the James A. Musick Facility, County-owned property at the
Irvine Great Park, or sites in unincorporated Ladera Ranch.
Eighteen Orange County cities contract with the County of Orange Community
Resources Department (OCCR) for shelter services. These contracts are “evergreen”
(automatically renewing), but either party may opt out with a six-month notice. The
remaining 16 county cities either have their own shelter, or contract with other cities, or
humane groups for animal care services.
In 1941, the County built the Orange County Animal Shelter (Animal Shelter) on
County-owned property in the City of Orange to serve a County human population of
200,000. Today, the combined population of the 18 contract cities plus the
unincorporated areas of the County served by the Animal Shelter is ten times larger:
2,100,000 (US Census Bureau 2010, 2013). The Census estimates that this population
reflects approximately 350,000 households with at least one pet (US Census State &
County Quick Facts, 2013).
Every California county with a population exceeding 500,000 has more than one
animal shelter facility. (Alphabetical List, 2014) Orange County is the exception, having
one shelter facility despite the geographic and demographic need for multiple shelters.