Fact-checking the Stockton PD News Release on Animal Services investigation

In a CBS13 News story by Maria Medina, Stockton PD spokesman Joe Silva said, “We stand behind Pat Claerbout” and Stockton PD has re-affirmed its support of an unlawful division of the Police Department.

http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2012/10/17/investigation-finds-laws-broken-at-high-kill-animal-shelter/

Let’s take a look at the Stockton PD News Release and compare it with facts and law.

Fact-checking the Stockton Police Department News Release

——-
Statement: Some of the policies and procedures in effect at the Shelter, although meeting the spirit of the law, have not always met the precise letter of the law.

The FACTS:
The spirit of California law is that no adoptable or treatable animal shall be euthanized (Penal Code Section 599d, Civil Code Section 1834.4, and Food and Agricultural Code Section 17005). Stockton law requires that animals shall be held for as long as possible to afford the public the maximum amount of time to retrieve or adopt them (Stockton Municipal Code Section 6.04.250(c)). For the past year, under the direction of Claerbout, Stockton Animal Services has systematically killed healthy animals on intake, killed healthy animals before the end of their required holding periods, and denied veterinary care to treatable and suffering animals. The practices overseen by Claerbout have been and in many cases continue to be illegal, not in the sense of the “precise letter of the law,” but in the sense of a wholesale and audacious disregard for the law. The statement that the shelter has always operated in the “spirit of the law” and has stayed close to the “letter of the law” is simply false.

——-
Statement: The Department determined that these policies and procedures are long standing [sic].

The FACTS:
Many of the policies and procedures in effect during Claerbout’s time have been illegal policies and procedures. Pointing out that they are long-standing is merely to say that the shelter has been violating the law for a long time. Long-standing or not, policies and procedures are no substitute for the law.

——-
Statement: In order to provide members of the public greater opportunity to adopt animals from the Shelter (a) the Shelter is now open on Saturdays from noon to 4pm.

The FACTS:
This change actually robs the public of extra days during which they might find and retrieve their lost pets. Characterizing the change as a new service to the public is deceptive. Prior to this change, the shelter was open for three hours on Saturday and Saturday could not be counted as a business day for the purpose of calculating animal holding periods. Under California law a shelter must be open for four hours on a Saturday in order for the day to be counted (Food and Agricultural Section 31108(d)). By adding an extra hour of operation on Saturday, Stockton Animal Services is able to reduce the holding period of all impounded animals by up to two full days. It is simply a way to kill more animals as soon as possible.

——-
Statement: In order to provide members of the public greater opportunity to adopt animals from the Shelter (b) any animal brought to the Shelter will be held for at least 72 hours…

The FACTS:
Prior to this change, the shelter was illegally killing animals immediately when they were turned in. Characterizing the change as providing a new service to the public rather than correcting the illegal actions of an incompetent shelter director is deceptive.

State law requires that any animal turned in to a shelter must be treated the same as a stray. This change is flawed in that it proposes to treat them differently. Stockton law mandates that stray animals, including stray animals turned in by citizens, must be held for four to six business days (Stockton Municipal Code Section  6.04.250(a)). California law requires that owner-surrendered animals “shall be held for the same holding periods, with the same requirements of care, applicable to stray dogs and cats” (Food and Agricultural Code Section 31754). Consequently, the plan to hold owner-surrendered animals for a shorter period than stray animals is not just another way to kill more animals sooner, but is also a continuing violation of California law.

——-
Statement: any animal brought to the Shelter will be held for at least 72 hours unless a veterinarian determines the animal is too ill or too injured…

The FACTS:
By substituting the ill-defined phrase “too ill or too injured” in place of the well-defined statutory phrase “irremediably suffering,” the door has been left open for future abuses. Stockton Animal Services under Claerbout’s direction has a long history of killing animals on intake by labeling them “sick” or “injured,” with no corroborating evidence or documentation.

California law provides that an animal may be euthanized immediately only when the animal is “irremediably suffering” (Food and Agricultural Code Section 17006). The exact legal meaning of “irremediably suffering” is the following:

***
An “irremediably suffering” animal is an animal with a medical condition that has a poor or grave prognosis for being able to live without severe, unremitting pain, despite necessary veterinary care.

“Irremediable suffering” may include: end-stage renal failure, panleukopenia (feline distemper) in kittens, canine parvovirus in puppies, severe blood loss, unconsciousness, severe head trauma, and unmanageable pain.

None of the following symptoms, standing alone, constitute “irremediable suffering”: diarrhea, vomiting, skin conditions such as ringworm or mange, ocular infection or conjunctivitis, nasal discharge, coughing or gagging, labored respiration that can be stabilized, and arthritis or weakness. A combination of any of these symptoms is not necessarily “irremediable suffering” unless the animal cannot live without severe, unremitting pain despite necessary veterinary care.
***

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Statement: The Shelter’s computer system is being upgraded so that Shelter staff may input and retrieve required information concerning animals brought to the Shelter.

The FACTS:
The shelter uses Chameleon/CMS, which is a flagship, enterprise-class case-management system, fully capable of storing and retrieving any conceivable set of information about impounded animals, customers, and staff. It is more than adequate and is not in need of replacement. The “upgrades” in question amount to adding some report-generation templates, which mostly means dropping some files into a folder. This work is trivial and should have been done the second day that Claerbout was on the job. Back in 2004, when accused of illegally killing animals early and without cause as the Director of the Sacramento County Animal Shelter, Claerbout blamed the “antiquated computer system” (San Francisco Chronicle, March 25, 2004). We are seeing in Stockton a replay of what happened in Sacramento, where unnecessarily shoddy record-keeping served as a defense to excuse and obscure unlawful activity.

——-
Statement: The Department may recommend changes to City ordinances to achieve better consistency with State law.

The FACTS:
Reverting Stockton law to agree with current state law would be a step backward for pet owners and for rescue groups. Stockton law requires that impounded animals be held for four to six business days. State law requires that animals be held for 72 hours. Repealing the longer Stockton holding periods would remove an important protection that pet-owning citizens of Stockton currently enjoy, reduce the effectiveness of rescue groups, and further sanction the killing of more animals sooner.

——-
Statement: Omissions

The FACTS:
The original complaints were not just about the reckless manner in which Stockton Animal Services violated the animal holding period laws. The shelter was also investigated for not providing necessary and prompt veterinary care as required by state law (Civil Code Sections 1834, 1846 and 2080), for not conveying injured animals immediately to a veterinarian for treatment (Penal Code Sections 597.1(c) and 597f(b)), for illegally permitting laypersons and veterinary technicians to diagnose and render a prognosis for sick or injured animals (Business and Practices Code Sections 4825, 4840.2, 4825.1(a) and 4825.1(b)), and for housing stray animals in a segregated and locked section of the shelter that obstructed access by owners searching for their lost pets and by rescue groups that have a right of access guaranteed by California law (Food and Agricultural Code Sections 31108 and 17006). None of these issues were addressed in the findings reported in the news release. Some of the documented incidents would naturally lead to criminal charges of animal neglect or to the revocation of veterinary licenses. These issues have seemingly been quietly set aside by the Police Department.

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