A grand jury in Orange County is raising concerns about the OC Animal Care shelter in Tustin after several complaints were received last year. This is not the first time a grand jury has looked into the agency.

Rescue and animal advocacy communities have been complaining about some of OC Animal Care’s policies and now a new grand jury report is reinforcing some of their concerns. 

Like many other large municipal animal shelters, the OC Animal Care shelter is not a “no-kill” shelter, and a new report by the O.C. grand jury says euthanasia rates related to dog behavior and cats have significantly increased over the last two years. 

According to the grand jury, the shelter could improve euthanasia rates for dogs by hiring an animal behaviorist to work with the dogs. 

The euthanasia rate for cats went up when the county stopped participating in the trap neuter and return program, a program that involves catching and neutering feral and community cats, and then returning them to where they were found. The county stopped participating in the program after legality concerns were raised, although other shelters still utilize it. 

The grand jury also criticized the shelter’s appointment-only visitation system, implemented during the pandemic, in which visitors must look at dogs online and make appointments to see only those specific dogs. Before that policy went into effect, visitors were able to visit the shelter and explore all the dogs available for adoption, which often led to spontaneous adoptions. 

Margot Boyer, a woman who adopted one of her dogs at OC Animal Care last year, started a Change.org petition calling for the shelter to go back to its previous system. 

“One of my dogs, I got her at the shelter because I used to go there regularly to check out the dogs to pick one,” Boyer said. “It took me several weeks to actually find one, but she was sitting in the corner, looked at me, and then she sort of just sighed, and then trotted over and licked my hand, so I fell in love.”  

Boyer’s petition has gotten more than 22,000 signatures and the grand jury effectively signed off on it, recommending the changes. 

OC animal care says they are reviewing the grand jury’s recommendations and will respond at a later date.