Public safety has been jeopardized by potentially hazardous canines put up for adoption by the county's already embattled Department of Animal Services, per a June 22 report, recently posted online by chief county auditor Juan Perez.
After reviewing records of "adopted dogs with recorded behavior-potential safety risks," the report says, auditors concluded that the department "does not consistently document communication of behavioral issues to prospective pet owners."
"One of the four records tested had no evidence that the dog's temperament was communicated to the prospective owner prior to adoption," according to the report.
"One dog was incorrectly classified as an adoption when, in fact, it was an owner relinquishment and was subsequently euthanized."
Another canine, the audit says, "was returned from the new adopter with aggressive behavior, which had not been previously noticed, and was subsequently euthanized….
"If full disclosure of a dog's fractious past is not provided to a prospective owner," the report says, "it could pose a potential safety risk to the owner or the owner's family or pets, increasing liability to the county."
Animal services could also do a better job determining whether the euthanasia it performs is justified. Auditors say they examined a sample of 30 cases to find out "whether sufficient documentation of the authorization to euthanize the animal was recorded."
Of the 30 cases examined, 13 were found to have been performed "based on the owner[s] request," with 10 of the 13 having "either no documentation or insufficient documentation to support the animal's initial assessment."
The audit goes on to fault the department's euthanasia screening, saying, "absence of detailed policies for owner requested euthanasia that includes adequate documentation results in insufficient evidence of how the determination was made and increases the risk that healthy, treatable, and friendly animals are euthanized."
Department officials disputed that finding, maintaining that their policy already mandates that supervisors review owner-requested euthanasia involving "questionable circumstances, an inadequate reason, or [a] healthy/friendly animal."
"If staff disagree with the reason for euthanasia (which the owner must indicate on the relinquishment form), then the animal would not be euthanized despite the owner's request," says a June 9 memo signed by Animal Services director Daniel E. DeSousa.
Auditors responded that "we stand by our finding and recommendation," adding that Animal Services should “clearly and consistently document the basis for making the decision to euthanize animals per owner-request, and include the documentation requirement in the [Department of Animal Services] policy or procedure manual."
DeSousa's memo said the department agreed with the audit's other findings, including staff training in use of the euthanasia drug sodium pentobarbital, as well as deployment of "a computer report to capture all behavior memos" as a precaution against vicious-animal adoptions. The fixes were scheduled for completion by last month.
"Those entries will be included in an acknowledgment of behaviors for a potential adopter to review prior to adoption. [Department of Animal Services] staff will be trained in the printing and issuance of the acknowledgment to the potential adopter."