The high intake Los Angeles County shelters have either two or three licensed veterinarians on duty. These veterinarians work eight hour shifts from Monday to Friday. There are Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVT’s) on duty seven days a week. Veterinarians are able to prescribe medication while RVT’s are not.
If a sick or injured pet is impounded after three o’clock on a Friday afternoon the shelters either ignore the pet’s suffering until a veterinarian can examine the pet on the following Monday, or the shelters have the option of sending the pet to an emergency veterinarian through a system known by the acronym “ETF”. Often the high intake shelters don’t have an officer available to leave the field and take the sick or injured pet to the outside vet clinics (the average ETF call involves approximately 2 hours of an officer’s time), and the dog or cat will sit in a kennel – in pain if injured or potentially infecting the shelter’s other pets if having a communicable disease – for three days until a veterinarian is on duty.
When a pet is sent to an emergency center, outside veterinarian has authorization to provide $75 in treatment costs. As any pet owner knows $75, even with preferential veterinary rates, does not provide much in the way of treatment. However at the discretion of each of the shelter managers they are allowed to authorize $300 to treat a sick or injured pet. From Friday afternoon to Sunday – shelter managers do not work – and many of them are entirely unreachable if the shelter calls – so for wont of funding, these pets are euthanized rather than treated by the outside veterinarians.
How difficult is it to stagger shelter veterinarians’ shifts and have one veterinarian work from Sunday to Thursday and the other from Tuesday – Sunday? In Los Angeles City’s shelter system – a shelter system which in no way serves as a paragon of good management – they have been able to do this for years. However for Marcia Mayeda, the apathetic despot running the Los Angeles County Shelter system this has been a challenge. Challenged on this issue for at least the six years since I first came in contact with her poorly run shelter system, she has done nothing.
Three years ago Mayeda rebranded her facilities from “shelters” to “care centers”. To use the term “Care Center” it implies that you provide “care” on a consistent basis. If Mayeda was held to truth in advertising laws, she would have to change the name of her facilities to “occasional care centers” or to be totally honest, “pet warehouses.”
For the Los Angeles County shelter system to even be considered “Care Centers” Veterinary care must be provided 7 days a week – and the term “Care Center” would be even more appropriate if Marcia Mayeda was unemployed.