Merger brings changes for Humane Society

OCEANSIDE — The January merger of the Oceanside North County Humane Society and SPCA and the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA has elicited both kudos and questions.
The merger renames the Oceanside facility the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA North Campus and allows the site that serves Oceanside and Vista to access specialized veterinarian treatment and extra space to house animals at the San Diego Gaines Street and Sherman Street campuses.
“Technically we have more resources, staff and equipment,” Elkie Wills, communications coordinator for the North Campus, said.
The San Diego Humane Society runs on a $14 million budget with 85 percent of the budget used for animal care, pet owner education, medical care, animal training, and pet and owner matchmaking, Laura Maloney, senior vice president of strategic initiatives and communication for the San Diego Humane Society, said.
While the additional resources are welcome, the merger has also brought up questions about operational practices that had 45 animals that had been OK’d for adoption prior to the merger transferred from Oceanside to San Diego for re-evaluation and five of them were euthanized.
Elaine Godzak worked as a volunteer for the North County Humane Society for nine years, but resigned in February after the merger. “The policies seemed to change radically,” Godzak said.
Godzak said she felt procedures to assess, treat and place dogs in suitable homes were working fine at the North Campus prior to the merger. “Then dogs available for adoption were taken to the San Diego Humane Society and never seen again,” Godzak said. “An inordinate number of animals were found unfit for adoption.”
The San Diego Humane Society and former North County Humane Society use the same medical and behavior assessments for animals, but the evaluation results that found five retested dogs unfit for adoption caused Godzak and other volunteers concern.
Shelter animals are given a medical examination to determine health risks and weigh if medical conditions are reasonably treatable. “Our medical intervention is high,” Maloney said. The Oceanside site has service agreements with local veterinarians and the San Diego Gaines Street site houses a full medical suite with surgery and X-ray facilities. “We have four veterinarians (on site) and do everything we can,” Maloney said.
Animals are also given behavior assessments that evaluate their interaction with strangers, and dogs are given prey response tests that gauge their friendliness toward cats. “Our goal is to find homes for them,” Maloney said.
The behavior assessments give a picture of an animal’s personality in real-life scenarios, Candice Eley, a spokesperson for the San Diego Humane Society, said. “What do they do if food is taken away?” Eley said. “What if a stranger comes into room? What type of home would be best for that dog or cat? We never want to adopt out a pet that threatens a member of the public or itself.”
Maloney said out of the 45 animals from the Oceanside site that were re-evaluated, five dogs were euthanized because of concerns for the community. Behavior assessment proved the dogs to be a potential danger to people or a significant danger to animals.
“The process is not taken lightly,” Maloney said. Four trained specialists need to reach consensus and sign off that the animal is unfit to be released to the community. The behavior, health and age of the animal are considered in the evaluation. “We are focused on saving and re-homing animals,” Maloney said. “Sometimes we need to make tough choices. No one wants to see animals put down. Our goal is to end euthanizing animals here.”
The merger presents some new challenges. It is the first time the San Diego Humane Society has worked with strays. The animal population at the Oceanside site is a mix of owner surrenders and strays, while the San Diego campuses have owner-surrendered animals only.
Stray animals arrive at the Oceanside site with no reference to their history. It is unknown how long the stray animals have roamed without a home and if they have any training. “We don’t know anything about their background,” Maloney said.
The fact that animals are strays raises more questions about them, but does not determine their adoptability. “It’s not a black and white issue,” said Dan DeSousa, lieutenant deputy for San Diego County Animal Services, which works with strays and owner relinquished animals. “There are very good dogs and aggressive dogs that are surrendered and very good dogs and aggressive dogs that are out on the streets. It depends on the dog and the training it has received, if any.”
During the transition phase of the merger community events and training previously held at the Oceanside site are on hold. “We’re one organization now,” Wills said. “The North Campus will benefit from the Fur Ball, Walk for Animals, and telethon (events held in San Diego). During the transition and planning phase we will determine what we can do in North County. We should begin training and programs here in six months.”
Currently Oceanside and Vista residents can participate in events and training programs held at the San Diego sites.

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  1. Kris Nelson says:

    Has the San Diego Humane Society never heard of the Hayden Law? They are legally obliged to release dogs to a rescue group RATHER than euthanize them. They refuse to do this when specifically asked. They prefer to kill the dogs. BUT WHY? Inquiring minds want to know!

  2. s pot says:

    I am a very concerned citizen and volunteer who wants not only what is best for the community, but also what’s best for our animals. I would like to know why, with the ‘trained specialists’ on hand and SDHS’s budget, they were unwilling and unable to ‘rehabilitate’ the 5 dogs euthanized. I personally worked with each of the dogs that were euthanized, and I am disheartened and saddened that these dogs, some as young as 12 months old, and one elderly, sweet 8 year old, were transfered and not given the chance to find their forever families. How did they become ‘un-adoptable’ once they left Oceanside?

  3. ... says:

    I personally know of at least 10 dogs that were “euthanized” since this merger for VERY treatable, MINOR issues. They continue to break the law by not letting non profits have access to the animals and refuse to answer simple questions like why a 10 month old puppy(who has spent half of his life in a kennel)is deemed “untreatable” for jumping and pulling. These people are liars and they should be ashamed of themselves.

  4. Nancy Jones says:

    I didn’t think NCHS could get anymore in-humane than they were under the old director but the new management has proven otherwise. Totally ignoring state law (the Hayden Act) by not making animals visible to the public & refusing to allow Rescue groups access? I was really hoping this merger would be a good thing for the animals here in North County – I guess I was wrong.

  5. Russ53 says:

    San Diego humane society has never been good at working with rescues or really any other organization. They think their way is the only way and that they have the right to play God. This leads to choices that help the bottomline, but not the animals. And this mentality stems from the top down. Tax payers and contributors should be made aware that they are funding an organization with backwards ideals.

  6. Great Kitty Rescue says:

    I am sickened by the report of animals being needlessly killed. “Our goal is to end euthanizing animals here.” Then stop the killing – it is as simple as that. San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Thompkins County NY, Reno, and other shelters have stopped the killing – so should San Diego.

    Why are they allowed to blatantly disregard the Hayden Law?

    What happens to “stray” animals in San Diego County if the SD Humane Society will not take them?

    There are some very disturbing practices going on here and the public needs to demand answers and change.

  7. Mark G says:

    Smoke and mirrors. The SDHS is responsible for unnecessarily killing thousands of treatable animals by sending owner relinquished animals over to DAS. Has anyone seen the actual number of animals they find homes for on a $14 million budget? Check the published Asilomar stats. Absolutely pathetic.

  8. RIP Boo Boo. says:

    I am disheartened by an organization that I once supported. We all thought once SD Humane Society merged with North County Humane Society that it would be a beneficial thing for the animals. As it turns out, it has been heartbreaking to have many of our “longtimer” animals be pulled from the Oceanside location to be transferred to the San Diego campus to “get new surroundings and a renewed chance of getting adopted” but actually get euthanized once they are down there. How can dogs that both employees and volunteers fell in love with, bonded with and spent months taking care of become untreatable once they are transferred down to the San Diego campus? Not one employee or volunteer would willingly want an ACTUAL dangerous and “untreatable” dog put up for adoption, but not one of the dogs taken from the Oceanside campus was dangerous and untreatable. Dr. Mark Goldstein states that in 9 years SD Humane has never euthanized a healthy and treatable dog, but that is a blatant lie, because they just did and probably have been doing so for quite some time.

  9. Lori Walton says:

    During the San Diego Humane Society’s capital campaign to build their current state of the art facility, I was told that my donation would help increase adoptions as well as end the euthanasia of adoptable and treatable animals by 2005. Unfortunately, neither of these two promises have been kept and I regret giving my time and money to them.

  10. fishfry says:

    I am neutral on this subject, but want to correct an item in the article:

    “The San Diego Humane Society and former North County Humane Society use the same medical and behavior assessments for animals, but the evaluation results that found five retested dogs unfit for adoption caused Godzak and other volunteers concern.”

    The 2 facilities do not use the same behavior or medical evaluations.

    The SAFER test is used at North Campus
    http://www.humanesocietyofknoxcounty.org/SAFER.html

    The Behavior Assessment at Gaines Campus is their own system
    http://www.sdhumane.org/site/PageServer?pagename=adp_BehaviorAssessments

    There are similarities and differences.

    North County Humane Society (before the merger) did not have a veterinarian on site very often, and they would use outside vets to do what they could medically for animals.

    All San Diego Humane Society (Gaines campus) animals get a thorough physical exam by a veterinarian, and state of the art diagnostics, surgery and treatments for any illnesses. Since the merger, SDHS is trying to get all the North Campus animals examined by veterinarians and many (20 or so since 1/11/10) have been transferred to Gaines to have surgery, dental work, x-rays and other procedures they couldn’t have gotten before the merger.

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