Privatize the Animal Shelter

by AVA News Service, March 23, 2016

More often than not, I agree with the AVA on so many local issues but I really needed to address your article below as inaccurate. I did not attend this meeting but I watched it on U-Tube and I certainly had a different take on it than the AVA did.

First, the evening before meeting the 9:am scheduled agenda item “code of conduct” was changed to 1:30pm. I can only assume some working folks who had planned to take off work to speak in the AM did not know this.

Volunteers chose to speak to the “code of conduct” because the word “volunteer” was used in the proposed code. Volunteers used to have regularly scheduled meetings with staff but Ms. Mountainfire discontinued these meetings awhile back. Volunteers have no place or no one to go to with their concerns. The “code of conduct” protects staff from volunteers and the public who might look at them sideways and they are welcome if, and only if, they “behave”.

If I read the AVA’s article correctly “speaking of precarious mental health” refers back to the volunteer who broke down and cried as she addressed the BOS. If so, am I to believe you have no compassion for a young woman who is deeply committed to helping animals and risked her volunteer “privileges” to speak of and for their proper care. I have spent some time talking with Becca and she, as well as others, could not tolerate some of the care, or lack there of, of the animals. She tried talking to management but management was not interested in her concerns. Her concerns were much in alignment with those of the Grand Jury who was also ignored. When you see an animal without water or lying on a still wet with bleach floor which causes sores on critters it is hard for some to turn a blind eye. This volunteer is crushed that her “privilege” of helping animals has been taken from her because helping animals and saving lives is her heart.

I have learned that Becca is training to be a certified animal behaviorist because she knows and understands that a simple temperament test is just a way to identify animal issues so that you can see what work has to be done, not a pass/fail test which can cause the “failed” animal to lose its life. I have seen this outdated pass/fail mode of testing and I have personally rescued animals deemed “vicious” by the County. These animals, with the proper care and training, have become fantastic companions to many. I do not feel an animal should pay the ultimate price for having been abused. And I do believe there are some, but not many, who are a danger to others.

Becca is one of the many volunteers who has stood up in favor of Petaluma Animal Services taking over the shelter. The difference between Becca and the others is that she dared to dispute a flyer put out by the HHSA Department which I will attach. I didn’t even notice the HHSA on the flyer until I blew it up on the screen. It is in small print on the left side of the dog (vertical print). I will attach the flyer for you to see. The flyer is printed full color and is offered at the front desk at ACS. It also offers to deliver to local businesses upon request if the business will post them. As a taxpayer I do not feel I should be paying for a flyer from HHSA, the very Gov’t Department that put out the RFP to take over the shelter. This flyer was posted on the shelter’s Facebook page.

Here’s where Becca went wrong, she dared to respond to that flyer on the Friends of Ukiah Animal Shelter Page. I found it rather interesting that Sup. McCowen said the BOS wasn’t denying first amendment freedom of speech rights, just that volunteers were not to speak through social media. I guys he leaves them the option to go in the closet and talk to themselves.

We want to alert the public that this flyer that is circulating the internet and Mendocino County is providing inaccurate information to the public. Please make a decision with your own mind and with all the FACTS, not with the misleading statements this flyer would have you believe. The real question is do you want to fix the very real problems that exist in our animal shelter? Do you want to have a shelter that is customer service oriented where you feel welcome? Do you want as many animals as possible to be saved? These are the REAL questions to ask yourself - then contact the Supervisors and let them know you want to be treated well, you want animals to be treated fairly and given every chance to live, and you want a real community based animal shelter that serves it’s community and provides the best care possible for our animals.

I personally believe that Becca’s head was put on a spike for all to see as an example of what will happen if volunteers get out of line. And they had better not stare.

I also wish to address the AVA’s criticism of Montanos family. I do not really know the family but I admire them for standing up for positive change for our County shelter. understand they took time to check out the Petaluma group and saw how much better their operation was than our County shelter. They have put time in care in supporting volunteers who have attempted to speak up. About a year ago HHSA & the Sheriff took a favorable look at Petaluma and supported the possibility of this progressive group taking over our shelter. I would only judge folks by what they had in their pocket if they carried their heart & soul in their pocket.

The shelter only now is beginning to clean up its act a bit thanks to volunteers like Becca and pressure from the Montanos family. The findings of the Grand Jury certainly didn’t appear to move them.

The questions we really need to ask ourselves are:

Why do we have a “paid" shelter manager on administrative leave and a “paid” interim manager at the shelter? Why is there suddenly a “paid" security guard at the shelter? Why is there suddenly a “paid” CEO assistant to deal with shelter issues? Why is HHSA looking to add $100, to the shelter budget when there is an outstanding organization who can and will do it for less? Why are we spending all this money when our County is broke?

Also, why was the RFP 42 pages when other RFP’s go out from shelters that are 6-11 pages? Could this RFP been created to fail?

I don’t know or understand anything about our local government but they certainly appear to be going about making things better in a cockeyed way.

Please believe I would not have gone on in this fashion if I didn’t have a great respect for you and your ability to investigate and dig for the truth. I often threaten to move back to L.A. where life was simple and people made sense.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Name Withheld, Albion

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