Shelter moving towards ‘managed intakes’
Bookmark and Share
By Mickey Zeldes  November 8, 2013 12:00 am

There was a published article last week about a new policy at the Sonoma County Animal Shelter regarding owner-surrender animals. They are calling their new policy “managed intakes” and requiring people to call ahead for an appointment before turning in their pet. We are also moving in that direction – both because philosophically we think it shouldn’t be quite as easy as we’ve made it in the past for people to “get rid” of a pet and because we quite literally are full.

In the past, anyone in our jurisdiction – Rohnert Park and the city limits of Cotati – could just show up any time during our open hours and occasionally during off hours and drop off their pet(s) for any reason, and we would feel forced to accommodate them.

It didn’t matter how full we were, how trivial their reason was, even if they had done nothing at all on their own to try and place the animal, etc. We’ve had animals surrendered on what almost seems a whim. One example I often use is about the woman who surrendered her cat because she was redecorating her house and the cat didn’t match. Or sometimes it seems like a fit of temper because the pup misbehaved that day.

Some people have reconsidered and come back for their pets after a cooling off period. Perhaps needing to schedule a surrender appointment would effectively do that without the animal having to come through the shelter’s door. It would also allow us an opportunity to offer solutions to their problems that could help the pet to remain with his family.

Shelters actually are not even required to take in owner-surrendered animals. The state only mandates there be a way to deal with stray dogs – this came about as part of the efforts to control rabies. Shelters have evolved to encompass all domestic animals and have tried to be a resource to people needing to rehome other pets besides dogs.

Certainly today, in our country, cats are a bigger issue and burden on shelters than dogs. We handle almost double the number of cats than dogs each year. Our intake numbers could be considerably lower if we stopped taking in all cats, but we hope budget cuts don’t force us down that road because it certainly doesn’t help solve the problems or help you, the citizens, with your cat issues.

We have to keep some kennel space free for incoming strays and emergency situations. By going to a “managed intake” system for owner surrender animals, we can triage situations that are most critical and be better prepared for what and how many animals are coming through our door. Of course, the fear is that suddenly all dogs being surrendered will become “strays that the people just found today.”

Lying, though, only hurts the animal – without the medical and personality history collected at intake, the dog or cat is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes time for assessment and adoption. Most people like knowing the background of the animal they are considering and it helps to be able to know things like “he lived with three children before” or was “fine with a cat in the home” or “loves to swim.” These are things that we could never know about a true stray animal.

We want to be able to offer the best care and chance for adoption to each of our animals and managing our intake is the only way to effectively control the flow of pets (sadly we have no control over adoptions). Please plan ahead and take the initiative to try alternate options before surrendering your pet to the shelter. If the issue is a behavior problem we may have a suggestion of things to try and trainers to contact for help. Know that there is a waiting list for surrendering animals at most shelters right now so don’t wait until the last minute if you are moving or facing a life change that precludes keeping your pets. The days of just walking into the shelter to turn in your pet are over so don’t wait until the last moment to contact us.

Upcoming events

• Bunny Day is the second Saturday of each month (next one is Nov. 9), 1-5 p.m. at the shelter. Meet our adorable adoptable rabbits, have your care questions answered by our knowledgeable volunteers, bring your bunny for a free nail trim, and shop our Bunny Boutique for fresh hay, fun toys and fabulous deals on supplies.

• November Adoption Special: Feeling lucky? We’ve got gambling fever. Spin our wheel for great discounts on all our animals.

• No more lost pets: Free pet ID tags and microchips for all Rohnert Park and Cotati animals. Stop by the shelter during our open hours to protect your pet: Wednesday, 1-6:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 1-5:30 p.m.; and Sun 1-4:30 p.m.


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at

Post Your Comments:
 *name appears on your post