Riverside County supervisors signed off Tuesday, Aug. 27, on an Executive Office response to a grand jury report critical of the way the Department of Animal Services handles payments collected by its officers in the field, citing safety and efficiency concerns.
On a 5-0 vote without comment, the board of supervisors certified the county’s answer to the civil grand jury, which near the end of the last fiscal year issued findings that focused on alleged deficiencies regarding how payments are collected and processed by animal control officers.
The county’s three-page answer to the panel stated that the issues which jurors found concerning have either been resolved or are close to resolution.
The 19-member grand jury, which has Superior Court authority to investigate most any matter of concern in county government, said it could not identify a specific written policy establishing how animal control officers are supposed to manage receipt of payments for various services while in the field, including pet surrender fees, owner redemption fees and euthanasia fees, all of which can run anywhere between $40 and $150.
The main concern pertained to cash handling and how officers secure cash to ensure it isn’t lost or stolen.
According to Executive Office staff, a policy does exist, and it instructs officers to lock money inside a box bolted inside each animal control patrol vehicle. Accepting credit card payments in the field, which would likely eliminate cash transactions, remains a challenge because most of the county’s three-dozen animal control officers are not trained to use internet-based software that can be loaded onto their tablet devices to process charge card payments.
Officials said the Department of Animal Services is working to have all officers trained in the mobile Converge credit processing system by Dec. 31.
The grand jury concluded that the cash-based system was “cumbersome and unsafe,” with many officers and supervisory personnel unhappy with managing and keeping track of dollar bills. Jurors also found the means by which receipts are recorded in the department’s database to be “time-consuming and inefficient.”
Executive Office staff said that, even with full implementation of the mobile processing system in the field, all types of transactions will still need to be entered into the agency database.
“Without this information, no official record will exist of the transaction,” staff said the report. “These records are vital to know the status of animals, such as if they are licensed, have bitten anyone in the past or have violations of law pending against them.”