Last year will be remembered as one of great beginnings for our department. We made significant progress in the construction of a new animal care center in the city of Palmdale – the county’s first new animal care center since 1976. This state-of-the-art center, which will open in the summer of 2016, represents the first step in the department’s effort to completely renovate or replace its aging animal care centers. The average age of our animal care centers is 54 years old. The oldest one, in Downey, is 70. These aging facilities are difficult to maintain and are not designed for modern best practices in animal sheltering.
In 2015, the department presented an animal care facility replacement and refurbishment plan to the Board of Supervisors, which directed the department, the Chief Executive Office and the Department of Public Works to develop conceptual layouts and identify funding sources to replace or refurbish existing care centers. The Board also approved $4 million to address the most critical infrastructure deficiencies in the animal care centers during the current fiscal year.
While the department moved forward in its modernization efforts, it also invested in its workforce. Department managers and supervisors were given training on management and leadership best practices that has enhanced their effectiveness and helped develop a cadre of well-trained staff to lead the department into the future.
We also made investments in our volunteer programs. The department received additional volunteer coordinator staff positions so we can grow this valuable resource. Additional training was provided to the department’s Equine Response Team, which assists our staff in rescuing horses from natural disasters. In preparation for the El Niño season, the department reviewed and enhanced all emergency preparedness nprotocols to help those in need.
Last year, the county also enhanced its ordinance regarding cats, with the Board approving changes that require the spay or neuter and microchipping of cats. These requirements will mean that fewer unwanted cats will be born and microchipped cats can be identified and returned to their owners. These requirements have been in place for dogs since 2006, and adding these requirements for cats will ensure greater protections for them as well.