Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Volunteer’s Journey

This is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing feature.  Wanting to be a little more “hands on” with rescuing I recently decided to become a volunteer at the Contra Costa Animal Services facility in Martinez.  I’ll hopefully be chronicling my thoughts and experiences.

I attended the orientation yesterday.  I haven’t actually been accepted yet so I don’t have experiences to share as an actual volunteer but I learned quite a few things from the orientation.

Contra Costa County Animal Services serves as the county’s law enforcement agency where animals are concerned.  It’s their ACOs (Animal Control Officers) that serve the same kind of duties as the ones featured on Animal Planet programs such as Animal Precinct, Animal Cops Detroit, etc.  They’re not simply the “dog catchers”.

The one criticism I have of the otherwise wonderful “Hotel for Dogs” movie is that the municipal animal shelter portrayed in the film was basically a death camp and its ACOs were mean spirited buffoons.  These individuals are total animal advocates that definitely don’t fit the “dog catcher” stereotype. 

In recent years the county’s euthanization rate has dropped from 70% to 30%, still one of the highest in the Bay Area, but hardly makes it a “death house”.


County regulations require all abandoned, stray, and seized animals go through animal services first, and are not allowed to turn any animal away.  This is a double-edged sword because the most attractive, most healthy, most adoptable dogs must go through the county first, all the least of those dogs go through as well.  Further, other rescue organizations get their dogs from animal services as well, including “no-kill” rescues such as ARF and non-profits such as the SPCA.  They get their pick of which dogs to take into their care.  But don’t take that as a complaint.  Without them it’s all up to the county to get them adopted out and euthanization rates go up accordingly. 

My older dog, Zoe, was one of those that had originally been taken in by Contra Costa Animal Services and  moved over to the East Bay SPCA branch in Dublin where we found and adopted her.

Please remember that while nearly all non-profits like ARF and the SPCA are solely supported by public donations and county shelters do receive funding from local government municipal shelters are often no better off, sometimes worse.  When there are budget cuts during hard economic times like now local municipal animal shelters suffer greatly.

Hopefully, Contra Costa County will accept me as a volunteer and I’ll have more to report later.

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