Castaic animal shelter euthanasia rate dips then upticks

Artwork on display as part of the Portraits of Hope Animal Shelter Revitalizations Project, which benefitted all seven of the Los Angeles Animal Care Centers, including Castaic Animal Care Center on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Christina Cox/The Signal

The Castaic Animal Care Center saw a dip in euthanizations among cats and dogs in the 2020-2021 fiscal year compared to the years prior.  

According to county data from the 2018 through the 2020 fiscal years, the average numbers of euthanized cats and dogs at the Castaic Animal Care Center were 238 cats and 108 dogs per year. 

However, the 2020-2021 fiscal year ended with 51 euthanized cats and 46 euthanized dogs, a significant drop from the average in the previous three years. 

According to Raul Rodriguez, the deputy director of the North County Operations and Public Safety Division for the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, the main reason for the dip in euthanasia among dogs and cats at the Castaic location was the “managed intake” operational model that was implemented at all seven county animal shelters at the start of the pandemic. 

Rodriguez said managed intake is the process in which the care center will determine whether to admit an animal based on their current condition. If the animal is sick, injured or aggressive, it will be admitted into the shelter. 

If the animal is in good health and proper condition, the shelter will find other ways to help outside of taking them in. Rodriguez said the idea revolves around community assistance.  

“For example, if they find a stray animal, [the community] can help us locate the owner before the animal has to come into the care center,” Rodriguez said. “The point is for certain animals that don’t need to come into the system because we can find other ways to locate owners, for example, is something that has been very successful. That’s what helped reduce the intake into the care centers.” 

Despite the drop in euthanasia usage last year, the Castaic shelter has already euthanized more dogs and almost as many cats in the past six months than the entire 2020-2021 fiscal year. 

Data show an increase of about 41% in cat euthanizations and roughly 117% in dog euthanizations in the last six months. 

Rodriguez said the uptick is a result of the sick, injured and aggressive animals that are being brought into the shelter. He also mentioned that the aggressive animals are “more challenging to place” because of their level of aggression. 

“For some of them, we are able to do an assessment of their behavior because they just need a little bit of behavior modification,” Rodriguez said. “But there are some others that are found to be not placeable because they can be a danger to the community. So those are the kind of animals that we are facing now at the care center.” 

Rodriguez said if they are too dangerous to release, “the only alternative is to euthanize them.” 

Castaic Animal Care Center volunteer Stacie Contreras contends the managed intake approach is not effective.  

“I think what we’re doing is we’re forgetting what the shelters are for and that is to help the animals,” Contreras said. “They have no voice and they can’t speak for themselves.” 

Despite acknowledging it is a community issue, Contreras said not everyone in the community can take a stray pet and care for them at home.  

Now that the shelter won’t immediately admit healthy animals, Contreras believes this creates a dangerous environment for lost pets and a stressful situation for pet owners trying to find them.  

“Owners know to go to the shelter because they know that’s where somebody is going to take their animal,” Contreras said. “Now, nobody knows where their animals are going to show up because the shelter doesn’t take them in.” 

Contreras said she believes a possible solution to the managed intake system is the “spay-and-release” method or to work closely with fostering programs in the community.  

“Maybe you can bring them in, spay them, adopt out the babies and if you have to, re-release mom back to the area that she is used to,” Contreras said. “You’re going to cut back on that population.” 

Rodriguez said the community can help get involved by assisting when they find stray animals by helping the care center find the pets’ owners via “posting flyers or announcing on social media platforms.”  

The county animal shelters also assist with owner surrenders by providing them with vouchers for medical treatments or resources for a training regimen, according to Rodriguez.  

“The community needs to be looking at different ways on how we can assist people without having to get them into the care center system,” said Rodriguez regarding how the community can help prevent euthanizations.  

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