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  • Writer's pictureSusan Houser

Mission Viejo, CA

Mission Viejo is a large planned community southeast of Los Angeles, with a population of about 93,000 people. The cities of Aliso Viejo (population 48,000) and Laguna Niguel (population 62,000) are just southwest of Mission Viejo.

Mission Viejo Animal Services (MVAS) is a municipal agency that provides animal control and sheltering services for all three cities. A non-profit, the Dedicated Animal Welfare Group (DAWG), provides substantial support to the shelter, especially for animals requiring medical care. DAWG also pays all expenses for animals transferred in from outside the jurisdiction, so that they will not be a burden on city taxpayers. DAWG’s 20-year anniversary is coming up in 2015.

MVAS takes in strays impounded by animal control and accepts owner surrenders. The shelter will take owner surrendered dogs from anywhere as long as they meet health and temperament requirements, but it accepts owner-surrendered cats only from its jurisdiction. The shelter has had a temporary waiting list for cats recently as it completes a new cattery. Once the cattery is opened, MVAS hopes to be able to accept cats from surrounding jurisdictions as well as its own jurisdiction. MVAS will not accept surrenders of aggressive animals or animals who have untreatable medical illnesses. MVAS does not provide owner-requested euthanasia.

Mission Viejo is located in Orange County, California, which has a county shelter. The county shelter received some animals in fiscal year 2013-2014 from Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, and Laguna Niguel. The county shelter provides owner-requested euthanasia, but the shelter director stated that it is limited to animals who are “irremediably suffering” as verified by a veterinarian or have a history of aggression as defined by state law. The county does not break out owner-requested euthanasias separately from other euthanasias.

Sharon Cody, a former city council member for Mission Viejo and the president of DAWG, sent me information and statistics for MVAS and the county shelter for fiscal year 2013-2014. The county shelter report broke out the intake and disposition of animals from the three communities served by MVAS. Therefore, the combined statistics should represent all intake and disposition of domestic pets for the fiscal year for the three jurisdictions.

For the 2013-2014 fiscal year, total intake was 1226 for MVAS plus 170 animals taken in by the county from MVAS jurisdictions. The combined live release rate for the fiscal year was 92%, including owner-requested euthanasia. It is not possible to provide a modified live release rate including animals who died in shelter care because MVAS includes those animals in a “miscellaneous release” category that also includes live releases such as transfers to rescue. Based on the information sent to me by Sharon, however, it appears that 3 to 5 animals may have died in shelter care, which would not be enough to change the live release rate.

MVAS has an exceptionally high return-to-owner rate. Out of 951 strays impounded in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the shelter reported returning 524 to their owners for an overall return-to-owner rate of 55%, including cats. In fiscal year 2013-2014 the number of strays taken in was 1061 and the return-to-owner rate was 47% including cats.

Sharon told me that the MVAS jurisdictions do have some restrictions on the number of animals per household. She is not aware of any breed restrictions, however, either by the MVAS jurisdictions or the homeowner associations in the area. She said that DAWG provided $80,000 in veterinary treatment during the 2013-2014 fiscal year, “saving every animal that could be treated.” A feral cat program has reduced feral cat euthanasia from 35 two years ago to just 3 in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, and Laguna Niguel are counted in the Running Totals as 90%+ communities.



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