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Two visions of the county Animal Shelter

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An update on the status of the San Luis Obispo County Animal Shelter to the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 11 offered an opportunity to listen to two different versions of life at the pound.

 According to County Health Agency Director Jeff Hamm and a report written by his staff, the county is making steady and good progress toward remedying deficiencies revealed in a 2008 Humane Society report that recommended 500 improvements to the county animal shelter.

According to the staff report, of the 108 high-priority recommendations, 61 have been completed. Citing budget constraints, Hamm said more improvements could have been accomplished if the economy was better. Overall, he said, Animal Services Manager Dr. Eric Anderson and his staff are doing a good job.

Some of the shelter volunteers tell a different story, however. They described a shelter that’s understaffed and that relies on badly trained and undisciplined trustees from the county jail Honor Farm. A volunteer said dogs bit three trustees in the last week. Speakers painted a picture of a shelter that’s not an efficiently or humanely run facility.

“Sometimes if a volunteer doesn’t notice that an animal has not been fed or cleaned, then nobody else does,” said Loretta Grundahl. “It’s not uncommon to find a cat without food or water.”

The report does say the shelter’s reliance on inmate labor is a problem that needs to be rectified: “Honor Farm labor represents a low-cost staffing resource for the division’s shelter operations, but is problematic due to concerns associated with a work force having limited skill sets, low work motivation, and frequent turnover.”

Most of the recommendations that have not been dealt with concern the creation of humane operating procedures and establishing compassionate conditions
for animals.

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