Jim Schlotter and Susan Davis came to Del Norte Animal Control prepared.
Seeking to increase their flock of one, Schlotter and Davis asked for one gray goose, two white geese and a duck, bringing along feed bags to keep their new additions calm.
“We used to have six geese, but over the years the predators... and so we’re down to one goose,” Davis said as animal control employee Micaela Curtis loaded the three geese and one duck into the bags feet first. “The poor thing was so lonely he was just staring at himself and so we’ve gotten him some companions. We’ve got three muscovys and they are going to be joined with one Aflac duck.”
More than 150 animals were up for adoption at a special event on Saturday. The critters, including more than 50 rabbits, chicks, goats, sheep, finches, a calf and a llama in addition to the ducks and geese, were among 167 animals seized in November from a property off Meghan Lane north of Crescent City.
While the rabbits, ducks and geese were available on a first-come, first-served basis, animal control staff employed a lottery system to adopt out the goats, sheep, calf and llama, said county Agricultural Commissioner-Director Justin Riggs. At about 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Riggs said the facility received at least five lottery tickets on each type of animal available for adoption.
While some may not want the animals that have health issues, Riggs guessed all the larger animals would leave the facility on Saturday.
“We did it that way to just keep it from being utter chaos,” he said. “Each household can come get a ticket for one species or all the species, whatever they want, and we’ll draw the tickets.”
On Monday, animal control had one sheep, one goat and some rabbits left, according to an employee.
According to Riggs, the animals’ former owner, 41-year-old Kelly Lynch, who was initially arrested for willful cruelty to a child, accepted a plea deal for one felony count of animal abuse. Lynch is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 17, Riggs said.
As part of her plea deal, Lynch was required to sign the 167 animals over to the county, Riggs said. This enabled animal control to “start moving them,” he said.
“We were going to send a lot of them to rescues, but the rescues kind of started to balk at the numbers,” Riggs said Saturday. “The idea is we’re going to get the numbers down today and see what we have left and reconvene with the rescuers.”
Offering the animals to the community for adoption will also save the county some expense, Riggs said. He noted even if the rescue organizations aren’t far, it still takes a staff member to load the animals onto a truck, transport them to the organization, unload the animals and drive back, which can become a full workday.
Riggs also noted that with staff time — he’s had to hire an extra part-time employee and his full-time staff has put in overtime as a result of the number of animals in their care — the cost to the county is expected to be in the “low five figures.”
“The last case we had, which wasn’t nearly as big as this, cost around $20,000 I think,” Riggs said. “It’s definitely going to be more than $10,000. We’ll be getting figures together ahead of the sentencing for restitution, but typically the way those things go, they get an installment (plan), so we don’t really get much back in a timely manner.”
Riggs said in the case of an animal cruelty seizure, the large number of critters they take in creates a ripple effect in his department and in the community.
“Because we have to care for these animals in our custody, we have to prioritize that,” he said. “When someone calls and says there’s a Labrador running around the neighborhood. It’s not aggressive, they’re just afraid it’s going to get hit, we pretty much have to drop those types of calls when we’re in this situation.”
With more than 150 additional animals to care for, it’s difficult for animal control employees to follow up on nuisance complaints, humane patrols and field enforcement, Riggs said.
However, Del Norte County Animal Control has had help from the community. Riggs said people have helped by purchasing animal feed or gift cards for animal feed and building supplies so his employees could reinforce existing enclosures or build new ones.
“Honestly, the generosity of the community is the only reason we’re getting through this financially in one piece,” Riggs said. “’Cause otherwise we don’t have a contingency fund for these situations. It comes out of our same operating budget.”
Outside Riggs’ office, dozens of people milled about the enclosures, scratching the calf under the chin and taking a look at the geese and ducks available for adoption. Two girls had put in for the sheep lottery, saying they were going to use them for a 4-H breeding project.
Robyn Parker, who teaches agricultural science at Sunset High School, said she was hoping to add a goat and maybe some sheep to the school’s farm.
“We would love to get a little breeding program going with some sheep or some goats,” she said.
Parker said she envisioned starting a program at Sunset High that’s similar to Alexandre Dairy’s Bucket Calf Program, which allows youngsters to experience what it takes to raise a dairy calf.
“There are some good looking little ewe lambs in there. Hopefully, our numbers will get drawn and we can take some back to school,” she said. “It will be fun for the kids to get to go through that whole process.”
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .