Oakland Animal Services to Face Major Reform Following Euthanasia Controversies, Chronic Vacancies

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For months, Oakland Animal Services (OAS) has been plagued by a steady stream of controversies surrounding the shelter's chronic understaffing and repeated accusations of officials unnecessarily euthanizing animals. After an onslaught of negative headlines, a number of city council members in April proposed a substantial restructuring of the city-run shelter — with legislation that the full council approved last night. Most significantly, the passage means OAS, which is currently a part of the Oakland Police Department, is on track to become a standalone city department.

Oakland Animal Services

The legislation also sets forth a timeline for filling vacant positions and establishes a so-called "animal services advisory committee" that will give local volunteers an opportunity to provide oversight for the shelter. The hope is that this package of reforms will improve the quality of care at the shelter and allow the city to better meet the demands.

Here is the city's latest snapshot on the ongoing vacancies at the shelter (which shows that there have been some improvements since the city's initial report in early May):

The legislation, from city council members Noel Gallo, Rebecca Kaplan, and Libby Schaaf (the latter two are both running for mayor) includes this hiring timeline:

With nearly one-third of positions vacant and limited operational hours, the shelter has for quite some time been unable to offer adequate care to animals under its supervision and has also been forced to turn away dedicated volunteers, according to critics. Case in point: One week after city council members first introduced the bill, a dead dog was left on a sidewalk in East Oakland for nearly a week despite calls from concerned residents, according to Kaplan's office.

The city's most recent report (PDF viewable here) offers additional details on the proposed restructuring and ongoing reform efforts.

And here's the full release Kaplan's office sent out yesterday on the passage of the bill:

OAKLAND, CA — The Oakland City Council passed legislation Tuesday to reform Oakland Animal Services (OAS).

Council President Pro Tem Rebecca Kaplan (At Large) introduced the legislation in April with Councilmember Noel Gallo, joined by Councilmember Libby Schaaf, calling on the City Administration to reform OAS after learning that almost one-third of staff positions at the Animal Shelter were vacant.

Kaplan and her colleagues learned that limited hours were hindering the shelter’s operations, dedicated volunteers were being turned away and animals were being unnecessarily euthanized.

“From top to bottom, the Administration needs to fill vacant positions that the City Council has funded,” Kaplan said. “I’m pleased that this legislation led to necessary reforms at the shelter and that the shelter will be moved out of the police department so our officers can focus on fighting crime.”

In May, one week after Kaplan and Gallo introduced their bill, a dead dog was left on a sidewalk in East Oakland — at the corner of 92nd Avenue and International Boulevard — for nearly a week despite calls from the community. Kaplan said no corner of Oakland should be neglected, funded positions must be filled more quickly and community involvement should be welcomed and effectively utilized.

With the bill’s passage, the Council approved recommendations that will make OAS a standalone city department — moving it out of the Oakland Police Department. The bill stipulates a concrete timeline for filling vacant but funded positions and establishes an animal services advisory committee.

“These are the reforms we requested in the bill,” Kaplan said. “This is a win-win because we can better manage the shelter and our police can focus on fighting crime.”

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