Published December 14th, 2016
County Animal Services Has Many Pet Projects
By Pippa Fisher
A staff member of CCAS and a friend. Photo provided
African lions, alligators, which county government offices might one stand the best chance of meeting one of these? The Lafayette City Council heard where when Contra Costa Animal Services Director Beth Ward gave it a detailed presentation on Nov. 28.
Ward, who has been in the position of director for a little over a year, said she was talking to various communities in the area about its program for informational purposes and to give updates on its work.
Admittedly she stuck to more mundane details of running the department during her presentation than exotic animals. She explained that the department is split in six basic groups:
 Field services - protecting public health and safety through enforcement of the County's Animal Ordinance, rabies control, field patrols and dead animal impounds.
 Shelter Operations - adoptions, transfers, intake and daily care, behavior assessment and maintenance of animals and kennels within their two shelters at Pinole and Martinez.
 Medical Services - care and treatment of animals, spay/neuter surgeries, low-cost vaccination clinic.
 Clerical Division - dispatch and frontline support staff who take in excess of 600 calls some days.
 Volunteers - for animal socialization, adoption counseling, lost and found, mobile adoptions, transfer partner coordination.
 Administration - those who keep all the above running smoothly.
Ward explained that the biggest activity in Lafayette continues to be the removal of deceased animals - 229 over the past year, most usually deer and cats. During the same time period there were 183 stray animal impounds, 48 noise and/or animal ordinance investigations, 44 rabies exposure investigations, 13 inhumane investigations and 13 local agency assists (when animal services are called to assist police or fire in cases where animals are involved) in Lafayette.
Steve Burdo, community and media relations manager, said that there are times when it can be challenging to get to all the cases of deceased animals when they are prioritizing more urgent incidents in Lafayette, such as aggressive animals, or are responding to abuse and neglect cases or health and safety related issues, although over the last year they have dedicated two staff position solely for the purpose of addressing the issue of neglect.
Burdo pointed out that Lafayette is a relatively lower volume community for their department in terms of activity when compared to the other cities in the county. "By way of reference, in 2015, CCAS handled over 4,500 activities in Richmond, over 4,400 in Concord and 1,400 in Lafayette." He continued, "In terms of cost, cities pay based on a per capita rate, with each city paying $5.74 per capita. Equating cost to population, Lafayette pays less than a more populated area such as Richmond or Concord."
As a municipal shelter CCAS is mandated to take in all dogs and cats as well as other animals that are sick injured, dangerous or potentially dangerous and under 12 weeks of age. Because of this, Burdo says that CCAS is not and will likely never be a "no kill" shelter. Some of the animals are not always prime candidates for adoption so CCAS works with hundreds of transfer partners, also referred to as animal rescue groups, that require a more experienced pet owner, rather than the casual adopter. "Our motto is, rather than saying no euthanasia, we prefer to say yes to saving lives."
Given its challenges, the figures for the last few years are impressive. In 2011 the CCAS live release rate (percentage of animals that leave the shelter alive) was 46 percent. It is currently up to 80 percent.
When asked about the department's most bizarre case, Burdo says one that comes to the minds of some of the longest serving officers and employees was the time in 1987 that the department impounded over 150 chihuahuas from a home in El Sobrante. "It was a hoarding case where the department sent two officers under cover to investigate and bust. The dogs were in extremely poor condition. That is the largest dog impound that the department has ever had to handle. However, over the years, the department has handled calls regarding some pretty rare animals, including an African lion, alligators and we currently have an alpaca in our Martinez barn stables. Getting to experience amazing animals is a nice perk of the job."
Burdo says the most frustrating part of his job is seeing neglect, abuse and injured animals. But, of the most enjoyable part of his work, he said, is, "Helping to create happy endings for the animals that enter our shelters, seeing the smiles on people's faces when they adopt their new family member and witnessing the everyday miracles and acts of compassion from our amazing staff and volunteers."
CCAS has a Twelve Days of Adoption promotion beginning on Dec. 15 and running through Dec. 27. The cost for all animal adoptions will be an all-inclusive $12 fee.

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