Critics Question Proposal by LAFCO to Contract Animal Services to UC Davis Koret School

animal-shelterLAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) has an initiative to explore alternative models of animal sheltering for Yolo County, following reports and complaints about problems with the current state of the Yolo County Animal Shelter.

A letter from Diane Parro, Deputy to County Supervisor Don Saylor, dated February 15, 2013 indicates, “After the study prepared by Sue Marks Gibbs and Tammie Murrell was presented to all the contracting agencies which includes Yolo County, Davis, West Sacramento, Winters, Woodland and UC Davis, the Yolo Managers group agreed to explore the JPA model.”

She writes, “They require a more thorough analysis which provides detailed and specific evaluation of the cost implications of a shift to a JPA model.  To that end, LAFCo is planning for an additional study.”

On February 28, 2013, LAFCO will consider a proposal to hire “the UC Davis Koret School of Veterinary Medicine, on a consultation basis, to complete analysis and use their expertise in this field as well as knowledge of our operations in Yolo County to make a recommendation for the organization of our animal shelter services.”

According to a memo from LAFCO Executive Officer Christine Crawford, “The previous August 2012 Yolo County Animal Services study indicated that staffing levels could increase from 18 FTE (full time equivalent) in the current Sheriff’s budget to 31 FTE under a JPA scenario for similar cost.”

She adds, “However, during the LAFCo presentations on this information several city councils were adamant that an alternate animal services/control model would need to save agencies money in order to be considered and that the recommended 31 FTE needed to be reviewed further to see what reductions could be made. This is a key factor in the need for additional study.”

The county is hiring UC Davis, the Koret Shelter Medicine Program, for a $16,000 consulting job.

However, this move is concerning to some of the advocates who have pushed for reform in the system.  They see the Koret program and Dr. Kate Hurley, who already have a paid vet at the shelter, as having a financial and professional conflict of interest with the shelter.

According to a website, “Fix Yolo,” there have been a number of independent and objective evaluations of Yolo County Animal Services Shelter since 2010.

They write, “These evidence-based assessments all show similar findings. Namely, that the Yolo County Sherriff’s Department is not the best agency to house our animal shelter. Fiscal accountability to the taxpayers, optimal use of agency funds, responsive customer service, and improved outcomes for the animals are not likely to improve and have not significantly improved under the current model.”

The UCD Koret Shelter Medicine Program on June 2, 2010, performed a one-day evaluation of YCAS, concentrating on medical care and disease control.

Their findings included “lack of protocols, haphazard or missed care, prolonged stays, frequent illness, unsanitary and dangerous conditions, needless expense for illness and recurring treatment, and increased euthanasia (especially for cats).”

While their report is highly critical, critics contend that, despite their findings, they did not push for real reforms because their vet is contracted at the shelter.


The bigger problem, according to some of the advocates, is that while Koret may be medical experts, they are not comprehensive animal sheltering experts.

They argue that to really reform the shelter requires an understanding that simply blaming the public is not the answer, because the public cannot simply be changed.

One advocate told the Vanguard that the Koret Shelter program is the last group that should come up with an unbiased evaluation of the process, as they have worked closely with the current shelter for a decade.

The general belief is that Koret has neither the knowledge of, nor is a leading expert on, progressive sheltering programs.

Rather than spending $16,000 on the consulting, these advocates believe that the county should invest their money on an evaluation that is both evidence-based and scientifically proven to increase live release rates of all animals who enter the shelter, as well as offer supportive programs directly to the community, such a spay/neuter, behavior support and direct adoptions.

There are questions, as well, about the expertise of the director Dr. Kate Hurley, as they do not believe she is qualified to be in an oversight position over the shelter.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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15 thoughts on “Critics Question Proposal by LAFCO to Contract Animal Services to UC Davis Koret School”

  1. JustSaying

    “One advocate told the Vanguard that the Koret shelter program is the last group to come up with an unbiased evaluation of the process as they have worked closely with the current shelter for a decade…critics contend that despite their findings they did not push.. .these advocates believe that the county should invest their money on an evaluation that is both evidence-based and scientifically proven…..There are questions as well about the expertise of the director….”

    Who said these things? What expertise? What bias? Why anonymous?

  2. Mr.Toad

    Man does this story have fleas! The dog pound, run by the Sheriffs department, is a cesspool. I know one guy told me he worked there cleaning dog poop. This young man, who didn’t finish high school, and, in my opinion, was under qualified for the task described, had a parent who worked for the Sheriffs department.

    Who is opposed to getting the Sheriff out of animal control? Could be the cop unions. Have you checked? Do these people get 3% at 50?

    Finally, what is the agenda of those impugning the reputation of the Vet School and Kate Hurley? What is their agenda?

    I met some people tabling at the farmers market who seemed earnest in their advocacy for reforming the dog pound. There is a whole lot more to this story than meets the eye.

  3. 2cowherd

    “The general belief” of whom says the Koret Shelter Medicine Program has “neither the knowledge of nor is a leading expert on progressive shelter programs. ” That is a pretty damning statement. What is the evidence to back it up?

  4. JustSaying

    Mr.Toad, what kind of qualifications does one really need for cleaning up animal poop? Certificate from Yolo CC? Maybe he had gotten his GED. Now, if he’s on the track to a Davis Fire Dept. type of retirement scheme, I’ll join you in protesting.

  5. SODA

    Wasn’t there a citizen committee chaired by Helen Thompson formed several yrs ago? What were their conclusions?
    I would think UCD taking this over would be excellent hands on program for students, budgeting etc.

  6. Dogooder

    If you care to do a little homeword or really want an answer vs just making a snarky comment, here is a little help.

    The Koret shelter medicine program is a animal shelter MEDICINE program. They are not to be expected to be leading experts on adoption programs, public spay/neuter needs, or management. That is not an insult and we should not expect them to do comprehensive evaluations of sheltering programs because that is NOT what they do.

    Here have a look at their program and maybe you will understand the difference. From the koret shelter medicine webpage.

    “Shelter Health Evaluations

    Although animal welfare organizations have been offering shelter evaluation services for some time, in-depth shelter health consultations are a relatively recent undertaking for the veterinary profession. The UC Davis shelter medicine program was the first veterinary program to offer this as a formal service. Our consultations focus on issues directly related to animal health, with “health” broadly defined to include all aspects of facility design and management that significantly impact mental and physical wellness of shelter animals. Consultations can be focused on a particular topic such as management of a specific disease or development of a vaccine program; can emphasize analysis of shelter data and population flow; or can be broad to cover all areas of shelter operations pertaining to animal health, welfare and life saving programs. For a complete description of our consultation service or more information, contact”

    A comprehensive shelter program evaluation covers ALL aspects of running an animal shelter. Those are offered by groups like HSUS and other private contractors from shelters who have a proven track record of using scientific evidence based programs and guidelines.

    Here is a link to an example of the difference in what a comprehensive evaluation should include. From the Humane society website.

    “Shelter Services

    Does your shelter or rescue need assistance improving animal care, management, or community outreach? We can help!
    Whether your organization is large or small, government or nonprofit, rural or urban, shelter-based or foster-based, The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) understands the issues you face. Animal care agencies often struggle to find the balance between community expectations and available resources, and staying current on new research and trends can be a challenge. The HSUS’s Shelter Services program can help you develop the expertise you need to ensure your organization’s long-term stability and success.”

    I do not read anything that was damning the VMTH or Dr Hurley or the Koret shelter medicine program. If you are employed, have a contract with or have close ties to an organization you should not be the hired contract for an evaluation due to a vested interest or a direct conflict of interest.

    I also do not read anything about UCD taking over the shelter as an option on the table. If you talk with students in the VMTH they will give you a long list of shelters and organizations that they work with and for some reason the Yolo Co shelter has not been an open door for them. The VMTH and the Koret shelter medicine program are not one in the same.

    Many of the local animal advocates point of view along with the research can be found at the fix yolo link below.

    I am sure we would all agree we need a fiscally responsible animal sheltering program that meets the needs of the community through programs that are at the current standards across the country. We sadly are a few decade behind as long are gone the sheriff run dog punds. The only programs at our pound that are meeting some current standards are being lead and run by the local SPCA and the Koret Med Program. However our tax dollars are paying the salaries and benefits for the sworn officers who are out there…. not running these programs. Thank you YSPCA, and the Koret shelter medicine program and all who are involved. Lets get an outside agency to come in and give us some help using tried and true practices 🙂 good new is we do not need to reinvent the wheel! We just need some input on how to get there….. like these folks here at Nevada Humane.

  7. 2cowherd

    I think the advocates who are pushing for reform are spending too much of their energy disparaging the Yolo County Sheriff’s Dept. – and now the Koret Shelter Medicine Program. I am sure that all the organizations advocating for a better life for the animals in Yolo County have the same goal. Wouldn’t we all be more successful if we all worked towards improving the shelter program in Yolo County rather than criticizing other groups working with the same aim.

    The current Yolo County shelter is too small, too old, outdated, unhealthful, and not a good environment for the animals housed there, the staff, the volunteers, nor the public – but , unfortunately, it is all we have to work with right now. The staff and volunteers are doing the best they can under not optimum conditions

    I am a volunteer at the shelter and I can attest that the current veterinarian is doing a very good job at reducing disease among the animals housed there,

    I think the most pressing need for the animals who end up at the shelter is a new, larger, more modern shelter. Until that happens the situation is not going to improve.

  8. Dogooder

    ” think the advocates who are pushing for reform are spending too much of their energy disparaging the Yolo County Sheriff’s Dept. – and now the Koret Shelter Medicine Program. I am sure that all the organizations advocating for a better life for the animals in Yolo County have the same goal. Wouldn’t we all be more successful if we all worked towards improving the shelter program in Yolo County rather than criticizing other groups working with the same aim.”

    [b]where is your evidence of this accusation? [/b]

    It would seem you and I are saying the exact same thing, except you make no mention of the lack of programs.

    We are currently known as the “dumping” county as we transfer animals out of the shelter to other towns and cities who have their fair share of unwanted animals vs adopting them out ourselves. This is a prime example of lack of programs.

    Yay to you for volunteering. So do the advocates….. It does not take a new building it takes a better PROGRAM in a healthy building.

  9. SouthofDavis

    The girl feeding our dog when we were in Tahoe last summer forgot to latch the gate, our dog got out and a dog lover (that was visiting from Seattle!) saw what looked like a lost dog and drove him all the way to the shelter in Woodland (she found the Shelter address on her smartphone) after she did not reach us calling the number on our dogs collar. I have never actually been to the shelter, but our neighbor’s dad (who felt bad his daughter did not latch our gate) drove up to Woodland and said the people were very nice.

    I don’t have any problem with the Sheriff’s Department running the shelter in Woodland (again this could change for me and JustSaying if we find out that the “poop scoopers” get to retire at 50 with a $100K pension like so many other people in the Sherriff’s Dept.). I wonder why we don’t have some kind of animal shelter in Davis since there are so many pet lovers in town and we could fill a large number of spots with not only volunteers from the community, but with UCD undergrads hoping to get experience to put on their resume to get in to vet school.

    I know the word “volunteers” scares the unions even more than “privatization” but if the SPCA in San Francisco can find a way to put a lot of volunteers to work I’m sure Davis can find a way. Bringing a shelter down to Davis would also help to increase the number of pet adoptions and probably help with fundraising we could even try something like the SF Bark & Whine Ball (making it more low key and calling it the Bike & Bark Ball and having the event at a park).

  10. JustSaying

    I’m not sure whether “the UC Davis Koret School of Veterinary Medicine” refers to UCD’s school (since there’s no such thing as the “Koret School,” just a program within the school).

    Does the contract limit the study to the Koret program staff, or can other experts from UCD vet school be involved?

    With respect to the anonymous snarky comments about Dr. Hurley’s expertise, motivations and qualifications (from UCD sites):[quote]“Kate Hurley is the director of the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program. Dr. Hurley began her career as an animal control officer in 1989. After graduation from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1999, Dr. Hurley worked as a shelter veterinarian in California and Wisconsin.

    In 2001, she returned to UC Davis to complete a residency in Shelter Medicine….(she) served as a co-author for the Association of Shelter Veterinarians ‘Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters’.

    Dr. Hurley regularly speaks nationally and internationally on topics related to shelter animal health. She was awarded “Shelter Veterinarian of the Year” in 2006 by the American Humane Association.

    Following completion of the residency, Hurley became the director of the UC Davis Koret shelter medicine program. Hurley has authored numerous publications related to shelter medicine, including co-authoring the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, and co-editing the textbook Infectious Disease Management in Animal Shelters.

    Her interests include population health and infectious disease, with a particular emphasis on feline upper respiratory infection. She loves shelter work because it has the potential to improve the lives of so many animals.”[/quote]Who do the anonymous critics feel would be better qualified to evaluate “evidence-based and scientifically proven” options?

    As Mr.Toad suggests, there must be a whole lot more to this story for the “advocates” to be so critical of Dr. Hurley’s capabilities and motives.

  11. JustSaying

    [quote]“The general belief is that Koret has neither the knowledge of, nor is a leading expert on, progressive sheltering programs.”[/quote]Dogooder, do you happen to be one of the secret sources that David is quoting in this story? If so, thanks for clarifying that you and your colleagues didn’t mean to be insulting in the way you criticized Dr. Kate Hurley and the UCD vet operation.

    It seems that there should be more room for working together here:

    1. There are people like [i]2cowherd[/i] who the feel that “the most pressing need for the animals who end up at the shelter is a new, larger, more modern shelter.”

    2. There is [u]FixYolo[/u] which seeks a commitment that the facility will have a “documented live release rate of greater than 90%.”

    3. There are the government and agencies that are responsible for dealing with the “abandoned, stranded or cruelly victimized animals” in appropriate ways.

    4. There’s UCD vet school that addresses “the health of all animals, including livestock, poultry, companion animals, captive and free-ranging wildlife, exotic animals, birds, aquatic mammals and fish, and animals used in biological and medical research.”

    How did such a potentially like-minded bunch of folks end up with such a testy dispute over LAFCO’s efforts to improve the shelter operation?

  12. Dogooder

    I am not sure how pointing out here in the comments, that there is a clear conflict of interest being pointed out in this article somehow is bashing Dr. Hurley or the VMTH or UCD or volunteers or animal control or anyone or that matter! It was an interesting read and for sure a hot topic.

    My only point is that this does not seem like the best use of funds for an evaluation that is not about shelter medicine but rather about the need for a comprehensive evaluation.

    I think Dr Hurley would be the to go to person for the medical evaluation of the sheltering practice of veterinarian services….. if you are going to hire someone to evaluate shifting the current model to a JPA why would you hire the leading expert on shelter medicine?

    Where in the big list of qualifications you posted does it state that she is the leading expert on sheltering programs, as mentioned beyond medicine, that would make her and this program the best use of funds for an evaluation to assess the next steps in forming a JPA?

    I already posted the examples of who are currently the leaders in shelter program evaluations.

    Lets not get off topic about mud slinging when there just really isn’t any, just saying

  13. Christine Casey

    I’m an animal advocate who agrees we all need to work together. This is a community problem that needs a community solution.

    To me this is what is missing in the LAFCO process. The independent studies mentioned in the original post were not undertaken to evaluate how to best deliver animal services in Yolo County, but rather to evaluate one option: private operation of county animal services. It’s hardly a surprise that LAFCO, whose mission is to consolidate government services–often through privatization–would recommend such a move.

    I oppose private shelter operation largely because there is no organization in Yolo County with the expertise and resources to run an animal services agency, a deficit not considered by any of the reports recommending private operation. My concern is that LAFCO is now proposing to spend more money to move towards privatization before all the options have been considered.

  14. JustSaying

    [i]Christine[/i], your concern (public operation rather than privatization, something I didn’t see as necessarily part of “the JPA model”) also seems to part of a potential package to improve shelter operations.

    [i]Dogooder[/i], are you suggesting that the U.S. Humane Society Shelter Services or the Nevada society should be hired to do the study rather than the UCD med school? PS–I didn’t say anything about mud slinging. I’m just surprised that there’s this effort to disqualify UCD and the vet school from conducting the study. There is no conflict here.

  15. mythsdreams

    Community rescue groups are the people who help prevent healthy animals from being killed by county animal shelters. Keeping animals out of gas chambers and from the needles and saving lives of innocent animals. In Brevard County Fl our animal services shelters are refusing to let community rescue groups do their thing and animals are needlessly dying. When animal services is forced to work with these groups the system works. In less than 4 weeks 169 cats were adopted after an adoption center was set up in the local mall controlled by a rescue group. Yet BASE continues to turn their head to what can be done when people put their minds to saving animals in county shelters. My first hand experience with Herbie the Cat should have been a feel good story but instead Herbie is a statistic. His fate was with the Gas Chamber man and he was killed two hours before I could rescue him. I urge everyone to take action to make sure your community joins the other 200+ towns, cities and organizations that are now NO KILL facilities where 90% or more of the animals are saved.

    Contact Brevard County Animal Services and tell them to stop killing healthy animals

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