Tuolumne County’s Animal Control Department is understaffed and underfunded, according to the Tuolumne County Grand Jury report released this week.
In the 2013-14 report, made public on Tuesday, the jury details the ways in which Animal Control is becoming less effective and hindering other departments due to systematic budget cuts dating back years.
Organized under the county’s Agriculture Commission, Animal Control runs the local animal shelter, registers dogs and responds to animal-related calls and service requests from the community. This year’s report is a follow-up to the jury’s 2009-10 investigation, which saw that the department was “suffering” from budget and staffing constraints even then.
“The current jury … found that budgeting and staffing limitations still exist,” the 73-page report stated. “The reduction in … staff and available hours has affected Animal Control’s ability to serve animals and the public.”
Citing the National Animal Control Association, the grand jury found a community the size of Tuolumne County should employ six to seven animal control officers. The county currently employs three, and those officers are not budgeted to work overtime.
Cuts since 2006 have also eliminated a veterinary technician position, whose former duties are now covered by the department manager.
Because of those constraints, according to the report, Animal Control staff have cut hours and services like routine patrols and off-hour calls. The department has seen an increase in workers compensation premiums, and the off-hour animal related calls are increasingly being handled by local law enforcement departments that are not trained to deal with animals.
Citing concerns that the ongoing drought will create further demand on the department, the grand jury suggested adding officers and a veterinary technician, improving some equipment and bolstering the budget to expand hours and services.
The report commends the existing staff for its hard work and dedication.
For the complete story, see the July 18, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.