Sutter County animal shelter fined after rat infestation found
Rat infestation is one of five health and safety violations at the Sutter County animal shelter that has drawn $3,000 in state fines, the county announced.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health cited the county after inspecting the pet shelter Sept. 30, after a former worker complained of rodents repeatedly burrowing into and through the building. Sutter County said it received Cal/OSHA's notice of violations Tuesday.
The county plans a meeting with the safety agency to decide whether any of the fines can be reduced or applied toward repair costs.
In a statement, Community Services Director Larry Bagley said the county has hired an exterminator to cope with rodents at the shelter and plans to install concrete-reinforced wallboard to patch holes dug by the rats.
"We've already changed the feeding schedule of the animals to ensure there is no food for the rats. We want to give the rats no reason to stay at the shelter," said Bagley.
Recent shelter tours, including a county-sponsored visit in February, have revealed extensive damage to walls, roofs and pipe insulation from burrowing rats, leaving parts of the building pocked with steel-plate patches.
Randy Cagle, the county's assistant community services director, said the animal shelter also has hired an exterminator who has set up 170 mouse traps in and around the building. No poisons or gases will be used to avoid harming dogs and cats housed at the shelter.
The cost of the shelter fixes was not announced.
Other infractions Cal/OSHA cited were an extension cord in a doorway, animal antibiotics kept in the same refrigerator as workers' food, exposed wiring on an outside lamp and a lack of full face shields for workers in the pet euthanasia room. Each violation carries a $600 fine.
Sutter County has 15 days to appeal the citations to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board, which may change the penalty or call for a formal hearing before a judge. An appeal and hearing together could take several months, according to William J. Krycia, Cal/OSHA regional manager.
The county has envisioned a $3 million, 10,000-square-foot replacement for the animal shelter it opened in 1986. The county's steady population growth — and increasing abandonments of pets from foreclosed houses — has left the current building packed with as many as five dogs in spaces designed for one.
Plans for the larger shelter have run up against a recession that has eroded tax revenues for the county and Yuba City, which jointly pay for animal control.
"It's going to be awhile before we move into a new shelter, so it's worth the trouble and money to solve this," said Cagle.
"I don't think people should let temporal conditions prevent them from taking animals there or adopting them," said City Manager Steve Jepsen. "I'm confident the county will address the issues there."