COUNTY OF SANTA BARBARA HEALTH CARE SERVICES

Dear Judge Melville:

Introduction

This response to the 1994-95 Santa Barbara County Grand Jury Interim Final Report on Animal Health and Regulation is being made in accordance with California Penal Code Section 933c.

Shortly before the issuance of this Grand Jury Report, the Board of Supervisors transferred management responsibilities of Environmental Health Services (and Animal Health and Regulation) to the Department of Health Care Services (HCS). Subsequently, Animal Health and Regulation (AH&R) was placed under the administrative responsibility of the HCS Director of Emergency Medical Services, Mr. Michael Harris.

The Grand Jury Report acknowledged this transfer of management responsibilities and observed that action had been taken to correct discrepancies reported by the 1993-94 Grand Jury, even before the transfer of management occurred. Nonetheless, the Grand Jury made findings and recommendations in five areas and the responses to these are respectfully submitted herein:

Responses to Grand Jury Findings and Recommendations

Finding #1: "The number of staff personnel at the various sites is insufficient to accomplish the mission of the Animal Health and Regulation Division."

Recommendation #1: "Immediate steps should be taken by the AH&R to increase the number of qualified personnel at each of the three sites.

Response #1: The Department concurs that current staffing is inadequate to properly serve the citizens of the County, and execute its mission. The Director, in conjunction with the County Administrator's Office and the incorporated cities, will further evaluate the feasibility of increasing staff, given the limited resource available to both the County and the cities, and the ability to continue to develop additional sources of revenue. An alternative to be further evaluated is whether a shelter facility should be cloyed and services provided in only two locations.

Finding #2: "The Grand Jury finds the "spay/neuter" program has been eminently successful, particularly in the South County."

Recommendation #2: "The AH&R should continue the "spay/neuter" program and take more aggressive action in the North County to promote this worthwhile program."

Response #2: The Department concurs that the "spay/neuter" program has proven itself valuable. Although funding for this program is limited, the Department will continue its Countywide activities while the Director, pursues a method of revenue enhancement for spay/neuter activities on an ongoing basis.

Finding #3: "Site Coordinators do not have the necessary authority to evaluate the personnel for whose performance they are responsible."

Recommendation #3: "Site Coordinators should be considered as Supervisors of their locations with all attendant authority."

Response #3: The Department is pursuing the placement of supervisorial Site Coordinator positions at each Shelter. This recommendation, however, has cost implications and, while being pursued as a priority, will be considered in light of current budget constraints.

Finding #4: "An ongoing training program which is specifically designed for the professional competency of Animal Control Officers and for the advancement of Kennel Attendants is not being pursued as aggressively as it should be."

Recommendation #4: "The AH&R should conduct ongoing training programs for ACO's (sic) and KA's (sic)."

Response #4: The Department concurs that effective organizations continually reinvest in their employees by conducting ongoing, training. As part of the Department's reorganization, a quality improvement process has been initiated and training is central to this effort. AH&R will assure that staff be involved in the development and implementation of such training.

Finding #5: "It is unfortunate that the AH&R Division is not able to recover any of the cost of policing and handling of stray cats."

Recommendation #5: "The AH&R Division should actively pursue the licensing of cats."

Response #5: While the Department agrees that cat licensing is an option worthy of pursuing, and has surveyed other counties involvement with cat licensing measures, it is not clear what rate of success can be attained by the licensing of cats. For example, by contrast, of the estimate of approximately 80,000 dogs in Santa Barbara County, only 16,200 dogs per year (or 20 %) are licensed. There are several factory which account for the low dog licensing rate which are being addressed now for improvement. These factors are more complex for cat owners and will require a lengthy re-education of the community before licensing regulations can be effective. For now, the focus of cost recovery related to dog licenses will take priority, while AH&R further evaluates other counties cat licensing efforts.

SUMMARY: These responses focus on the specific Grand Jury Findings and recommendations of April 19, 1995. However, since the assignment of a new administrator in AH&R, a comprehensive review of management and operational activities of the division has ensued. The review has included numerous discussions and interviews with paid and volunteer staff for their input, and has resulted in process improvements that required no additional resources. It is intended that the results of the current review will be presented to the Board of Supervisors and shared with all interested parties upon completion.