Sutter animal shelter grapples with loss of inmate labor
For more than 20 years, Sutter County used jail inmates — called trustys — to clean dog kennels and cat cages, feed animals and take on other tasks at the animal shelter on Second Street.
But the practice, deemed risky because of potential liability claims, and made additionally difficult due to the state's prison realignment plan, ceased at the end of August.
County officials say they are struggling to fill the labor gap.
"We need to have two people, eight hours a day, seven days a week. That's the void we're trying to fill," said Bob Clary, administrative services officer for the county.
Five animal control officers make up the paid staff at the shelter.
They continue to receive some help through the sheriff's work release program, and on Monday, the Sutter Animal Services Authority approved hiring a temporary part-time kennel assistant.
A lack of insurance recently put a stop to volunteer work from a local animal rescue group. County officials said a chow-chow (canine breed) rescue group in Penn Valley recently stepped forward to provide insurance coverage for several volunteers until the local group, ResQPaws, is able to acquire its own insurance policy.
The $9,000 a year, 20-hour per week position approved Monday will help, but only scratches the surface of the facility's labor needs, Community Services Director Danelle Stylos said.
"We're trying to hold it all together as best we can with volunteers until decisions can be made about staffing," she said.
Meanwhile, long-range labor issues still await resolution on the authority's board.
The agency, made up of Sutter County, Yuba City and Live Oak, has been planning for construction of the badly needed animal shelter and its operation.
But alternate proposals for transitioning the county's shelter employees next year to the new shelter are expected to be discussed tonight by the Yuba City City Council.
County Supervisor Stan Cleveland said he has high hopes that one of the proposals will meet with all three parties' approval.
"There's definitely room to get it done with what they are presenting," he said of recommendations from Yuba City staff.