Board Walk ~ Susan Gorin

Susan Gorin


We love our pets — here’s how the county is helping

Posted on August 9, 2018 by Susan Gorin

It is no secret that my staff and I love all sorts of animals – big and small, hooved and clawed, and we feel privileged to share our lives with them every day. During the daily course of business, we don’t often get the chance to pet kittens and puppies but if we do, we jump at the chance! Recently my team and I were given the opportunity to present commemorative Challenge Coins to the men and women of Sonoma County Animal Services in thanks for their excellent and heroic efforts on behalf of our community’s beloved pets and livestock during last year’s firestorm.  During our visit, we were able to tour the facility and learn more about Sonoma County Animal Services, as well as pet cute kittens and puppies!

Sonoma County’s Animal Control Officers (ACOs) are at work in our community every day, responding to thousands of calls each year to help lost, injured and abused pets, and caretakers. Animal rescues can be quite harrowing. It takes an incredible amount of training, dedication, focus, flexibility, and cooperation to save distressed, injured, or trapped animals. In 2017, in addition to their usual workload our ACOs along with more than a dozen mutual aid workers, were a critical resource in the response to the North Bay fires. Working around the clock, officers rescued, fed, watered, escorted veterinarians, and worked in evacuation shelters and responded to desperate owners flagging them down, often on their way to, or from, another rescue. 

One of the more extraordinary rescues that occurred during the October fires, was the rescue of 133 Koi fish that were ultimately retuned to the owner’s pond!  As we are all aware, the effects of the fire were on-going for weeks and months and during this time Animal Services provided over 35,000 lbs. of food to fire-affected neighbors made possible through the generous donations of partners and the community!

Upon entering Sonoma Animal Services, we were greeted by the sweet, soft “meows” of kittens in large cages in the lobby.  Extremely adorable and hard to resist, these kittens are just a few of the animals that receive care from the dedicated staff.  We learned that in 2017 Animal Services cared for 3,168 animals, and sheltered 2,375 strays. Of these 1,012 were adopted, 1074 were returned to families, and 585 were transferred to one of the many partners in the community, including Pets Lifeline and other animal rescue organizations.The ACOs of Animal Services responded to 17,652 calls in the field and attended to 735 injured animals. 

It was breakfast time as we toured the spacious dog kennel area of the north Santa Rosa facility and the air was filled with excited barking! We were told that the dogs become more vocal when new people enter the space, but that the kennels are often a quiet environment throughout much of the day. The pens are large and the dogs also have daily access to the outdoor exercise wood chip yard as well as regular exercise walks from the many shelter volunteers. 

Sonoma County Animal Services has a comprehensive Behavioral Care program and relies on positive reinforcement training to motivate shelter animals to learn desired behaviors. Many dogs come in to the shelter having experienced trauma and minimal socialization and little to no training. The Behavior program is focused on successful outcomes in their forever homes and begins with an assessment and the design of an individualized plan to help develop healthy behaviors.  The caring and committed staff at Animal Services provide one-on-one training sessions, socialization with other animals at the shelter, opportunities for off-site activities (playgroups, pack walks, field trips) and obedience training. When an animal is not making the progress necessary to be ready for adoption, Animal Services outreaches to outside rescues and skilled foster homes for continued training and re-training.

After visiting with the dogs and cuddling several cats in the cat area, we visited the ‘Vet Room’ and met with the Staff Veterinarians who were getting ready for a morning of surgeries.   A very vocal young kitten climbed the door of her cage as we all lined up to take turns to hold her soft and squirming body.   The kitten was scheduled to be spayed that morning along with a large German Shepherd and an adorable Blue Heeler puppy both being cared for by partner rescue groups.  A small Chihuahua was also in residence and sported a cast on a front leg, the result of an unknown accident.  The veterinarian explained that this was the 2nd cast the little patient had received to aide in his healing process.  The Vet Room is compact, very busy and efficient and treats thousands of shelter animals every year.  In 2017, 748 Shelter Animals were spayed or neutered and 714 low-cost surgeries were performed.  

Responding to emergencies and disasters is a big part of the job at Sonoma County Animal Services and was never more critical than during the October fires.  Going forward, Sonoma County Animal Services is working with the community at large to help develop emergency preparedness plans for both large and small animals.  

We know that many community members and organizations sprang into action with animal rescues, providing places for animals to shelter, donating food for small and large animals and rescuing and reuniting animals separated from their owners at the time of our firestorms.  Thank you all for your action in time of great need. We are now including Animal Care and Control and community organizations in our updated emergency plans for the future.

Look for opportunities to volunteer and volunteer rescue training on their website at  And, next time you are in need of a new fur family member, consider adopting an animal in need. 

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