Why illegal killing at Stockton Animal Services matters beyond Stockton and San Joaquin

Over the past several months, Central California Pets Alive has pieced together a disturbing picture of systematic illegal killing at Stockton Animal Services. You can see the data analysis, results, records, and legal analysis as well as links to actual records, law, and court cases here: http://centralcaliforniapetsalive.org

The live release rate for the Stockton pound (it doesn’t deserve the name “shelter”) is only about 30%, and of the 70% killed, 40% of those are killed on intake and another 35% are killed before the end of their legal holding period. So, of the 12,000 to 13,000 animals impounded, at least 6000 every year are killed illegally. No one is denying they are being killed.

Last week, I had a conversation with Stockton Animal Services director Pat Claerbout in which she tacitly admitted to me that they are still routinely killing animals on intake–she seems to think that a “Turned in by owner” form gives Stockton the right to kill the surrendered animal on intake. It doesn’t. State law requires all animals to be given the same legal holding period, and there are only a few circumstances in which shelters can kill on intake:

  • When the animal is irremediably suffering, and there’s a legal definition of irremediable suffering; this is the only time that what pounds do to millions of animals each year actually fits the definition of euthanasia;
  • When the animal is a vicious dog whose case has been adjudicated prior to impound; and
  • When the animal is unweaned, needs maternal care and has been impounded without its mother.

The vast majority of animals coming in to the Stockton pound, like the vast majority coming into every other shelter and pound, are not candidates for euthanasia. They’re supposed to be held for the legal hold period, and they’re supposed to be provided veterinary care if they need it. It doesn’t matter if the shelter director doesn’t like state law, it doesn’t matter if she testified against it before it was law, it doesn’t matter if it’s hard, it doesn’t matter if all the other pounds are killing on intake (the “industry standard” argument). The law says each animal is entitled to that legal holding period, regardless of how it arrived at the pound.

The Professional Standards division of the Stockton Police Department has been investigating complaints about illegal killing and withholding of veterinary care. We’re waiting for the findings now. If the investigation report concludes that only minor changes are needed, that all this illegal killing is somehow justified under the law, then every high-kill pound in California will be emboldened to ignore state law. Furthermore, since the Companion Animal Protection Act (model legislation crafted at least in part from California’s Hayden Act) is a pillar of the No Kill strategy, any case in which a city endorses ignoring the law topples that pillar.

Pat Claerbout is a member of the Board of Directors of the California Animal Control Directors Association, many of whose other members are notorious for violating the Hayden Act. If Stockton’s findings, report, or action allows the continuation of the status quo, that will endorse the attitudes and practices of those members of the board of the CACDA who are already ignoring state law. A report and actions that do anything less than repudiate current practice, require Stockton to change its practices and act lawfully, and remove a director who willfully violates the law will send a signal to other outlaw animal control agencies to keep breaking the law, because chances are, they’ll get away with it.

Who’s up for a lawsuit? Hundreds of thousands of animals’ lives may depend on it.

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8 Responses to Why illegal killing at Stockton Animal Services matters beyond Stockton and San Joaquin

  1. Perhaps Internal Affairs may be interested to see if our local SPD are acting on violation of policy ’cause if NOT then why?????

  2. Georgianne says:

    I live in NYS. What can I do to help?

  3. Georgianne, thanks for asking. There are two important things you can do:
    One is to share our Facebook page that has regular updates about Stockton Animal Services. We use this blog for longer explanations and analysis. FB page is: https://www.facebook.com/centralcaliforniapetsalive

    The other thing is posted on our Facebook page and that is to contact Stockton city leaders who are so far allowing the illegal killings to continue, and ask your friends to do the same. We’ve posted a note and contact info here:

    Thank you!

  4. Katherine says:

    I’ll do what I can to help!

  5. Allison says:

    I will help get this women fired however I can!!! How can I help?!?

  6. Allison, thank you! There are two important things you can do:
    One is to share our Facebook page that has regular updates about Stockton Animal Services. We use this blog for longer explanations and analysis. FB page is: https://www.facebook.com/centralcaliforniapetsalive

    The other thing is posted on our Facebook page and that is to contact Stockton city leaders who are so far allowing the illegal killings to continue, and ask your friends to do the same. We’ve posted a note and contact info here:

    Thank you!

  7. julia Priest says:

    News Flash: Stockton is bankrupt and has no money for services.

    • News flash: a history of bad financial management is not an excuse for breaking the law. If Stockton impounded your car, could they send it directly to the crusher because the impound lot is full and they think the only other option is to add a lot they can’t afford? (Hint: the answer is no.)

      Stockton Animal Services turns down volunteers. The offer to the Police Department to help with grantwriting and fundraising for Animal Services has been on the table, untouched, for weeks. No one’s asking Stockton to add to the Animal Services budget with public funds; we’re asking them to use the funds in the existing budget to operate lawfully and to allow and seek private help.

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