Tulare County Health and Human Services Updates Animal Control Ordinance

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors (BOS) was briefed at their July 28 meeting on the new Animal Control Ordinance. The new ordinance has to go through a second reading on August 11 before it becomes final. The proposed changes, voted 5-0 in favor by the board, affect only residents in unincorporated areas of the Tulare County.

Tim Lutz, Health and Human Resources Agency (HHSA) financial Officer, gave the presentation. He said that the new animal control ordinance represents a fresh start for the organization and that the HHSA had to build it up from ground zero. The HHSA started from scratch because the old ordinance was difficult for the control officers to understand, insufficient in giving direction, and hadn’t been updated since 2007. Many laws have changed concerning the treatment of domestic animals and the new ordinance addresses the significant changes to state laws. Lutz also expressed HHSA’s desire for TCAC to be more responsive and better deal with the needs of the community.

“The Agency is very excited to have gotten to this point in the ordinance process,” said Timothy Lutz, Director of Fiscal Operations. “This has been over a year in the works, with review of the industry’s best practices, surveying of other county ordinances, and extensive research and review from both program staff and the County Counsel’s office, culminating in meetings with community stakeholders and the public. We feel this ordinance helps establish a solid foundation for which we can continue to shape the Animal Services Division.”

Community stakeholders included Earlimart, Dinuba and Porterville. Supervisor Vander Poel was pleased with a meeting in Earlimart because it is one of the heaviest users of TCAC resources. Lutz chimed in saying that Porterville is also wrestling for that position.

Lutz expressed a desire for the HHSA to rebrand Tulare County Animal Control and make the organization more of an animal care facility and adoption agency. To do this, the agency will focus on prevention, control and licensing. These changes reflect a transition from Animal Control to the Animal Services Division. The division will oversee Animal Control and Licensing functions and the Adoptions facility.

Lutz also suggested forming an Animal Services Division Advisory Committee. The committee would consist of veterinarians, kennel owners, community members, and Animal Control personnel.

Key changes to the ordinance include an update to their administrative hearing and appeals processes and streamlined fees. Lutz said that TCAC’s goal was to avoid seizing animals and to give people a remedy to dealing with an impounded animal. Changes also include providing fee breaks for those doing routine business versus those heavy users of TCAC’s resources. The changes reflect greater flexibility, and clarify TCAC’s regulations. Lutz said that the new ordinance will put better controls on when staff can enter properties. It also requires that staff always be accompanied by a sheriff when they have a search warrant. The ordinance also lowers the impound days from six to five so the owner can recover their animal faster.

The state just passed a law that regulates how vendors sell animals at swap meets. HHSA decided to include the state law into the ordinance, even though they did not have time to get community input. The law goes into effect January of 2016.

A former manager at TCAC thought the timing ironic for the new ordinance because of the pending litigation against TCAC. He also felt the changes would not be sufficient to alter TCAC’s reputation for being a kill shelter. TCAC has struggled with a 90% euthanasia rate, which is one of the highest in the state.

Jean Rousseau, County Administrator Officer, commended Lutz for managing Tulare County Animal Control while that organization has been under attack by the media. Rousseau’s comments reminded all those in attendance about TCAC’s law suit, which names Lutz as one of the defendants. The suit accuses TCAC of discrimination, wrongful termination and sexual harassment. TCAC has also been accused in the Visalia Times-Delta and this paper of gross mismanagement of animals in its care during the last two years.

To read the new ordinance go to www.tchhsa.org/TCACOrdinances.

 

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