Animal shelter hit piece

Today’s story sets out two sides of a public brawl between the Stockton-San Joaquin County Animal Shelter’s supervisor, Pat Claerbout, and her leading critic, Samantha Stolz, an animal lover. Stolz is set on getting Claerbout booted and replaced by somebody with fresh ideas to running the shelter other than turning to euthanasia. Stolz called this “lazy.”

As in most every story on Stockton today, it boils down to money and the lack thereof.

Reporting this story, Claerbout was ready to open the place up for inspection, and she said she doesn’t mind the heat from Stolz if it brings attentions to the dire conditions she and her minimal staff work under to deal with a constant flow of abandoned dogs and cats. Walking through the place is difficult. Working there must be a challenge.

The dogs go crazy at the sight of a visitor, so it’s easiest to have a conversation in the room filled with caged cats. That’s not much easier to stomach. As you stand nearby, they too cry out and some reach their paws through the cage doors as if yearning for attention and affection. The flies are everywhere. Claerbout said the animal shelter was built 30 years ago. Dogs are hard to adopt out, she said, and cats are nearly impossible, so most all of them are destined to be put down.

Part of the trouble is that few come there to take home a new pet. The few visitors one recent afternoon were there in search of a lost pet scooped up by Animal Control officers.

Claerbout said that in Sacramento, where she worked before coming to Stockton, they were able to build a modern animal shelter. Manteca just opened one that looks more like a pet store than a kill shelter. Claerbout said more people are inclined to come and spend time to adopt a pet where it is nice. In Sacramento, the new shelter boosted adoptions by 10 percent, she said.

Claerbout said she dreams of a wealthy pet lover who sees a story on the shelter’s conditions and donates $2M to build a modern shelter in Stockton. “It’s happened,” she said. Given the staggering financial problems of Stockton, it is not likely the city or county will be able to pull off what Manteca did. Let’s hope Claerout’s dream comes true.

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