RivCo Department of Animal Services pushes back

RivCo Animal Services Kills Most Pets in Nation

Dogs in need of home.

The increase in dogs and underage kittens entering Inland Empire shelters are reflected in all the shelters across the county, including Riverside County Department of Animal Services, which ranked No.1 in top agencies nationwide with the highest numbers of dogs and cats killed in 2022, according to Kaylee Hawkins, Pacific Regional Director for Best Friends Animal Society.

However, the recent press release from Best Friends Animal Society includes statements about Riverside County Department of Animal Services (RCDAS) that are “misleading” and do not take into context the entire story of animal sheltering nationwide, RCDAS said in a statement released through Kerri Mabee, public information officer.

The Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of cats and dogs in shelters by 2025. It recently released its annual data report which gives the most accurate and comprehensive national overview of the number of dogs and cats that enter and exit shelters in a given year. California continued to hold one of the top spots in the country for pet shelter deaths.

California reflected what the data shows nationally: the number of dogs and cats killed in U.S. shelters had a setback, with an increase from 355,000 to around 378,000. This was largely due to shelters experiencing higher intakes and lower adoptions, according to Hawkins.

RivCo Animal Services Kills Most Pets in Nation

Feral kittens

While dog lifesaving is an increasing need across the country and in riverside and San Bernardino counties, more than 12,5500 kittens are brought into animal shelters throughout the greater Inland Empire area traditionally during the time between March and October. Underage kittens continue to be the area’s most vulnerable populations in area shelters, according to Hawkins.

“The reasons for the overcrowding are complex and linked to challenges faced by families, including economic instability, change in employment or living arrangements and the life-altering upheavals associated with the previous years’ pandemic, according to RCDAS. Animal intake at our shelters is often a mirror of these societal challenges.

“Riverside County shelters, like many around the nation are experiencing extreme overcrowding. The reasons for the overcrowding are complex and linked to challenges faced by families, including
economic instability, change in employment or living arrangements and the life-altering upheavals
associated with the previous years’ pandemic. Animal intake at our shelters is often a mirror of these societal challenges.

“As a government sheltering organization, RCDAS is an open admission shelter. We cannot, by law,
turn away any animal, regardless of its health, behavior, or history. Viewing our data along with nonprofit shelters that can – and do – refuse owner surrenders or strays paints an inaccurate picture of what is happening at RCDAS.

Riverside County is a large sheltering system serving a vast population and land area — one of the
biggest shelter systems in the nation. Without the ability to refuse, large numbers enter shelters sick, injured or unsafe to rehome. The numbers by Best Friends are not adjusted for population. Riverside County is the 10th most populous county in the nation. A raw numbers comparison with smaller jurisdictions is not a fair comparison.

  • While the number of euthanized animals is high, correspondently, the adoption rate is also
    very high nationwide. Both numbers are indicative of a high admission of animals which in
    turn reflects the large population served by the department.
  • Best Friends includes owner requested euthanasia in their live release calculation, a service
    the department provides to help our community, at a low cost, for anyone who cannot afford
    much needed end of life care for their animals. With the Best Friends standard no-kill rate at
    90%, our positive outcome rate for 2022 countywide was 87 percent for dogs and 79% for dogs in 2023 YTD; 46% for cats in 2022 and 55% in 2023 YTD.
  • Best Friends euthanasia statistics for Riverside County includes San Bernardino County cities
    by way of contracts with the Department. In 2022, four contracted cities in San Bernardino
    County accounted for 4,740 animals impounded at RCDAS. These impound numbers impact
    the live release rate for cats and dogs admitted to RCDAS by as much as 10% each.
  • RCDAS adoption rates have remained strong. Overall, in 2022 RCDAS saved 18,258 lives. This number continues to grow each year. In all, 9,782 animals were adopted in 2022, just as high as pre-pandemic trends of 10,087 in 2019, despite fewer overall impounds. The department expects to reach pre-pandemic numbers of impounds in 2023 at more than 30,000 animals.
  • Rescue rates are down at RCDAS, like many shelters around the nation. Rescues report their
    own capacity issues, along with difficulty accessing veterinary. In 2022 transfer partners pulled 4,920 animals for rescue; in 2019 it was 9,093.
  • Stray intake is on the rise, RCDAS has seen a 62 percent increase in impounds of stray animals from pandemic lows of 15,571 in 2020 to 28,750 impounds in 2022.

The department received $3.4M in funding from the board of supervisors on June 27, 2023 to reopen the San Jacinto Shelter, increasing our capacity, likely resulting in a significant increase in positive outcomes for animals in our care.

In the last year a number of life-saving programs have been implemented in the department to improve positive outcomes:

  • Implementation of the Community Cat program has seen already a nearly 10% increase in live release outcomes for cats and is expected to increase.
  • Wellness clinics that protect the health of animals with spay/neuter opportunities, microchipping and vaccinations assist owners and relieve the load on area vet offices.
  • Pet Support measures were implemented in mid-June at the Jurupa Valley shelter, where staff engage with members of the public arriving at our shelters with stray and owner surrender animals. Staff share the message of shelter overcrowding and offers assistance in helping citizens foster and keep their pets. As part of this effort, staff are scanning animals brought to the shelter in real time connecting owners to their pets faster, even sometimes avoiding shelter admission.
  • A partnership with Petco Love Lost’s facial recognition software launching prior to July 4 will help identify lost pets and return them home, providing a third tool for pet reunification, adding to the tools of microchipping and identification tags/collars.

“We must come together as a community and commit to being responsible pet owners by securing
our yards so that animals cannot run loose, spay/neutering our pets to address overpopulation,
identification of pets (via tags, microchips and registering with Petco Love Lost), licensing and
vaccinating our pets and ensuring their health through humane care,” according to the statementt.

“The staff at  are working tirelessly to innovatively and diligently to provide the happiest,
healthiest outcome for the animals in our care.””

Image Sources

  • Three stray dogs: Pexels