Placer County Animal Shelter offers variety of services

This is the second in the four-part "It's a pet's world" series looking into pets and pet ownership in Placer County
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A Placer County agency sees 250 animals every month and offers a variety of services to them and the community, but not everyone feels its efforts are enough. The Placer County Animal Shelter has two locations, one in Auburn and one in Tahoe. According to Mike Winters, program manager for Placer County Animal Services, the county has three employees in the Tahoe shelter and 13 in the Auburn shelter, with an additional four part-time employees. Winters said there are about 12-15 regular volunteers that also help with things such as dog walking and the adoption process. Winters said last year the shelters took in 2,295 animals, and it normally puts out about the same amount as it takes in. The shelters see a variety of pets including dogs, cats, horses, goats, guinea pigs, rabbits and sometimes more exotic animals, like parrots, Winters said. According to Winters, the shelters spend about $300 on each pet that comes through its doors, and services it offers to animals include examining animals for any kind of injury or illness when they come in, inserting microchips, licensing, de-worming, treating for fleas and ticks, vaccinating for things like rabies if the animals don’t have current shot records, evaluating behavior to see which kind of home the pet would be best to place in and posting the animals’ pictures up on the Internet in case anyone is missing them. Winters said there are a couple of things the community should know about the shelters. “For one we do not euthanize for space,” he said. “If we are running out of space, we find some other means.” Winters said this could include moving animals from the Auburn shelter to the Tahoe shelter or moving them to rescue organizations in Placer and Sacramento counties. “And they come on a regular basis to pull animals from our shelter that, when they have space, they might be able to put up for adoption,” Winters said. “So the old myth the animal has so many days and its time is up … that is not true in our shelter. We do euthanize animals, and we euthanize them for medical reasons we can’t treat easily.” Winters said another little known fact is that Placer County Animal Services also has an animal trust fund with the county and usually awards $60,000 a year in grants to local nonprofits. Fees to have an animal redeemed, or taken back from the shelter, are calculated based on a number of things, Winters said. These items include an impound fee that starts at $89 and goes up each time the particular pet is impounded. The fee is charged for the time the animal control officer goes out to pick up the animal, according to Winters. Winters said other fees include a boarding fee of $20 a day, or $26 a day for livestock, and a licensing fee of at least $18 for an unlicensed dog for a one-year license. The fee goes up depending on how long the license is good for as well as if the animal is not spayed or neutered. “State law and county codes allow us to charge more for unaltered animals than for people who have an animal altered,” he said. “It’s kind of an incentive to get your animal altered. The reason is they think unaltered animals tend to wind up in shelters more than those who are altered.” Other fees include an $11 rabies vaccination and a $92 per hour fee for control officer time, or $105 an hour on weekends with a two hour minimum. These are fees set by Placer County, Winters said. “When you have done all that you can come up sometimes with a pretty high cost,” he said. “On the average I would say it’s anywhere between $200 and $400 to redeem an animal that’s gotten away, gotten lost.” Rosemary Frieborn, a humane officer with the Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills, said she doesn’t think the Auburn shelter is adequate enough to care for all the animals that need its services. “There isn’t any room for aggressive dogs, stray dogs, dogs that are sick,” Frieborn said. “The shelter is too small and poorly designed.” Frieborn said the shelter is also considered depressing by some. “A lot of people say, ‘I can’t go there. I can’t go to that shelter,’” she said. “(It’s depressing) not only for the staff, for the public too.” Frieborn said she doesn’t think it is the responsibility of local nonprofits to take the burden off the county shelter, and that eventually something is going to give. “When a shelter is too small it’s kind of like the pressure from what has to come in from the field on what is in the shelter becomes huge,” she said. “Without these groups saying, ‘Give us these animals,’ that pressure would be 20 times greater. We have to remember it’s the county that is mandated to furnish these services, not the nonprofits. And so the county has to pick up its responsibility.” Lynn Howe is a volunteer coordinator for the Auburn shelter and president and founder of A New Hope Animal Foundation, which benefits the shelter. Howe said the community is lucky to have the animal shelter program it does. “I think that we are very fortunate with the animal services department we have,” Howe said. “They treat animal control and animal services like animal welfare. These people know each animal by name whether it’s a horse, a dog or a cat. That is really different for a municipal shelter. They embrace a relationship with nonprofits to network with them.” Howe said a lot of California shelters don’t provide the base medical services the Placer County shelters do. Even when staff is overwhelmed they still work their hardest to give one-on-one attention to the animals that need it or call in volunteers to assist them, Howe said. “This is a really little known fact of what goes on in that shelter,” she said. “There has been a lot of negative voice, but there is so much positive that goes on there. I feel very fortunate to be able to serve my community with this animal shelter.” Reach Bridget Jones at ---------- It’s a pet’s world This is the first in a four-part series digging into the world of pet ownership in Placer County. Read and comment on the series at Sunday: A look at Placer County leash laws. Will they get tougher? Monday: The county’s animal shelter has it’s critics. What does staff have to say? Tuesday: Residents share their extreme love for their special pets Wednesday: Learn more about the various animal rescue organizations in our community ----------