Oakland Animal Services Director Resigns Amid Staffing Concerns

Kittens up for adoption at the East Bay SPCA Adopt-a-Thon. (Facebook.com/OAKAnimalServices)

The director of Oakland Animal Services is resigning after three years in the role.

Rebecca Katz's departure comes after the exit of the shelter's only veterinarian, Dr. Jen Dalmasso, last week.

Katz submitted a letter of resignation to the city in March. In an email to volunteers last week she states, “I simply cannot continue to work at an agency that does not get the resources and support from the City needed to fulfill its mission.” Her resignation is effective June 15.

Katz and shelter volunteers say a lack of staffing is a major concern, with some budgeted positions remaining vacant for over two years.

As a city shelter, OAS is obliged to take every animal that comes in.

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“They have 300 to 400 animals at any given time,” volunteer Rebecca Grigsby says. “The staff is spread so incredibly thin that they cannot fulfill some of the even basic day-to-day functions, let alone the larger mission of the city shelter.”

Grigsby says the city has agreed to expedite the hiring of shelter staff, but hasn't responded to other requests, including setting aside funding and positions in the 2018 mid-cycle budget, and “getting the police department to honor their obligations around animal investigations.”

Dr. Dalmasso came on board in 2016. She says she had only one veterinary technician and an unlicensed assistant. Meanwhile, she was treating up to 30 animals every day.

“I could not continue on at the pace I was going,” Dalmasso says.

The only remaining veterinary technician is transferring out of the area next month, Dalmasso says, and the assistant will be going on maternity leave this summer, leaving the center with no veterinary staff.

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The shelter was formerly part of the city's police department before it began the process of becoming a stand-alone department in 2014.

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