Is your pet licensed?
Join Lorien as she talks with Contra Costa County's PIO officer, Steve Burdo, about the importance of licensing your pet. They also dive into the innovations helping keep animals safe and how the pandemic has shifted the way shelters are solving problems. Don't miss out on this informative episode that may help you get your pet home quicker in a scary situation!
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00:01 Lorien Clemens
Good afternoon everyone! To wrap up the month, we are talking with Steve Burdo, the Public Information Officer from our partners over at Contra Costa Animal Services. I'm super excited to talk with him about all the great work that they do. Welcome Steve.
00:16 Steve Burdo
Thanks for having me. It's great to be here and looking forward to a great conversation.
00:21 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, I'm excited. So, Contra Costa is one of our newest partners with pet licensing and a lot of folks that actually follow PetHub don't actually know what we do with pet licensing and how exciting and fun it is, and a lot of folks, this is gonna sound hard for you to hear, but I know you know it. A lot of folks don't even know really what pet licensing is all about. They have no idea that they need to do it, so I thought, let's start there, and let's say, you know, okay, pet licensing. What is it? Why do I need to do it?
00:51 Steve Burdo
Sure, it's a great question because as you know, you're aware, you know not a lot of people know about that. In terms of compliance and Contra Costa County, we're at or around about 30 percent, which is kind of on average for where a lot of municipalities will be with that, but it's certainly well below the percentage you would want to be at in terms of having animals licensed, and the importance of, you know, having your pet licensed, even whether it's a -- you know most people focus on dogs with that -- but cats can be licensed too and we encourage that. Number one is we always say it is the best way to get your pet home if they become lost right? Microchips are great, but somebody finding a pet on the street can't see if they have a microchip in them or not. If they have the license tag on them, there's a clear path there, you know to contact the animal shelter. They can run the number and identify the owner and contact the owner right? That's the a-number-one reason we always say, but the real genesis of pet licensing happened because of rabies control. In order to get your pet license you need to have a rabies vaccination, and really, you know, the genesis of animal control in the United States, in general, is around rabies control. So the license was really the first step to identify if your pet has been vaccinated against rabies so in the case that they bring a deceased bat home into the house, or come in contact with an animal that can be a possible rabies vector. We know that that pet is vaccinated -- we'll still make 'em go through the quarantine period and take all the precautions, but that was really the genesis of licensing and why it's important. Again with the rabies disease not being as prevalent anymore in the United States. Really, that's why I say the a-number-one reason now is it's your pet's fastest ticket home. That's why in terms of the partnership between Contra Costa Animal Services and PetHub, you know, this just adds another dynamic to that license, right? Because as I mentioned in the past, you know somebody would find an animal, and the only way you could have that chip run is go to your local animal shelter or call your police department depending on how it's operated and see if somebody could run that chip. Now with PetHub, with the dynamic QR codes on the tags themselves, the person finding the animal -- We know everybody has a smartphone -- can just, you know, take a picture of that. Use the QR code reader and they can even contact the owner directly and, you know, keep the animal out of the shelter effectively through that return to owner process, which is, you know, we're certainly big fans of and really jumped at the opportunity to partner with you guys.
03:43 Lorien Clemens
We're excited to have you on. I mean, so for folks that don't know how well PetHub tags work. I mean we have over the last gosh, well, we've been in business since 2010, but we've been getting tags on pets since late 2011 and our numbers have been consistent through the years -- the last ten years -- 96 percent of the pets that were getting home are home in 24 hours or less, and this is the most important thing for you guys, I know less than 2 percent hit that shelter door and have to go in, and so, and we'll talk a little bit about that in a minute, but I'd like to like go back about something else about pet licensing that was kind of an eye-opener for me, and I don't know how it works in California, but at least here locally in central Washington. A lot of people are like I need to be able to prove that that's my pet, and pet licensing is one of the ways that you can prove that pet is mine. Just putting your name on a microchip isn't enough. Just having your name on the tag isn't enough. Can you talk a little bit about like from a legal perspective, if pet licensing can also help you prove that's your pet?
04:44 Steve Burdo
That's a really good point and you know it is something that I don't want to say we see frequently, but we see pretty often. I've been with the department for going on 6 years now, and it's something that pops up one or two times a year, and yeah, it is. You know, we're the 9th largest county in California, right. So we're very populated and certainly the more population, typically the more crime, and in some of those crimes, that is somebody stealing something. In our case it tends to be an animal. I know, everybody is familiar with the Lady Gaga story and what happened with her frenchie, you know, but that is something, especially if you have a, you know, what we would call a designer dog, or you know, a really kind of high profile, expensive pet. You know, people do look to take those, and yeah, licensing is probably the best way to establish your ownership over that pet, so that if somebody does take your pet and then that pet needs to, you know get medical care or winds up somewhere, a lot of times we'll see somebody gets pulled over, and those dogs or the animals in the car, and the police will do their due diligence and connect them up, but that license really establishes that ownership and it's really important that if you take ownership of a pet, you know, one way or another because we know certainly during the pandemic, there were a lot of people looking for rehoming assistance, and you know, so if you get that pet, whether you help somebody rehome or whatever the situation may be where you're taking ownership of that pet, you know, within 30 days you should license that pet to establish that ownership, because otherwise, you know, we've seen it where you know people change their minds or something happens and it really -- It becomes essentially a civil dispute between the two parties, and that license really is, you know, that 9/10 of the law in that situation.
06:48 Lorien Clemens
Yeah. that's the kind of thing that we actually see here at PetHub a lot, particularly with lost pet situations, where somebody will have lost a pet, they think they've found it. They've licensed it through one of our community partners like you and it's really that license that makes it so that they could get that pet back because whoever took them said no-no-no, this is my dog, and so really, it's been amazing actually to me how often that, that's come into play, and another great reason to license with a county like Contra Costa is because, unlike a lot of other places that use that stamped metal ID tag, that was invented before the Civil War. You get a digital modern ID tag, so I love that you guys are our partner. Can you talk to folks about what does it take to get a pet license? Because I think that also might be a deterrent for some people, or at least make them feel like, well, I don't even know when I was supposed to do. Can you talk people through that process?
07:37 Steve Burdo
Sure, yeah, you know. Essentially, if you're living in Contra Costa County or you've just moved to Contra Costa County or you've just taken ownership of a pet, like I said, within 30 days our county ordinance, you know, states that you need to license that animal. So in that case, when we're talking about, you know the need for licensing and why it's important -- like I said part of it again is, you know, because of rabies control, the other end of it is it helps keep animals out of the shelter and so what it takes to license an animal essentially is you need a rabies vaccine and there are many places to go and do that. You could go to any local vet in the community. There are also low-cost clinics. Contra Costa County -- we operate a low-cost vaccine clinic, so you're paying very little money, essentially just for the rabies vaccine. It'll cost you about $20 or so to get that, and then once you have that rabies vaccine, you can at any time license your animal with the county, again it's a requirement and also the best way to get your pet home, and all that requires is you could do it all online on our website. You go to ccasd.org on our licensing page. That's going to take you to a third-party vendor Petdata which handles the actual administrative process around the licensing and it's $25 to license your pet with the county, but if you're a senior or veteran, you could get a low-cost or no-cost license as well depending on your status, so you know the hardest part of the process is getting the rabies vaccine right? Because you know veterinarians charge a bit more than we do, and because we operate a low-cost clinic and basically all of the low-cost clinics in the Bay Area region fill up pretty quickly, you know, you're either going to have to wait a little bit to get into that low-cost clinic or, you know, pay a little more and go to the vet to do it. We know that a lot of parts of our county, especially during the pandemic, were really, you know, financially hit hard, so we're trying to figure out ways to either do it ourselves, or partner with others to be able to do that because getting the vaccines out there means we're going to get more licenses, and within our county, another byproduct of you know, having your pet licensed is, you're getting on our list, right. If your pet is licensed with the county, we're going to be sending you communications via the mail, or if you provide us your email address, via email about certain things you could take advantage of, like our low-cost spay and neuter clinic, or for instance, everybody who had a pet licensed in Contra Costa County when we made the change to the PetHub tags, everybody got a mailer about that and an opportunity to say hey, yeah, you know, I'm not up for renewal for another like 8 months, but I want that tag. It gets you in our communications pipeline, which is always a good thing, especially as over the past few years we've seen a number of disaster emergencies within our county. Whether it's been fires on Mount Diablo, a landslide in Morgan territory, stuff where we've had to evacuate not only people but pets as well. So you want to be able to have that information and being in our communications pipeline, whether it's you have your pet license, then we could mail to you, or you're getting on our email lists through that same pipeline, or you're just following our social media. We like to really get that communication out there and if your pet is licensed, you're absolutely going to get all of the opportunities that we have to provide to our community. You're going to get noticed about those.
11:20 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, and I can't stress enough how important it is to have a relationship, as a pet owner, with your local animal care and control. Just being on your list is important because you mentioned the natural disasters, which unfortunately seem to be like every other week we have a different one going on. We have fires up here in North Central Washington as well. I mean, it's critical that you're on that list, that you're getting those updates, so you know where your resources are. You know how to get help when you need to. I'd love to talk a little bit about what's that money go towards. Like when I license my pet, where's that money going? Who's it paying? Is it going to the general fund? Is it going to help the Animal Services? What's the money for?
11:57 Steve Burdo
Yeah, essentially it comes into our budget. We have a unique budget as a municipal agency where there are a few different pots. One of them is -- there are 19 cities in Contra Costa County, we contract with 18 of them were their local Animal Care and Control. The city of Antioch, they have their own Animal Care and Control and their own animal shelter which is operated by their Police Department, so we don't serve them, but we partner with them all the time on things like lost pets and whatnot. Then we have our county subsidy, that's the amount that the county pays us to take care of Animal Care and Control for the unincorporated areas in the county as well as to do things like you know, provide the fleet and the shelters and all that which some of that is funded through the city funds as well, and then we have our own revenue sources, which relative to the city contracts that we have and the board subsidy that we get, the least amount, but the biggest part of that pot is our licensing and the other revenue generation in terms of fees have to do with our low-cost vaccination and spay and neuter clinics -- although those pretty much operate at costs, so there's not a lot of revenue there -- in our adoptions, which for the last year we've been doing free adoptions through the pandemic, and even before that, you know, we're pretty much the lowest cost adoptions in town, and so that's not really a great revenue generator as well. So in terms of our operations, licensing is pretty much our main revenue generator of all of the different actual streams of revenue that are coming directly into Contra Costa Animal Services from the services we provide. Certainly there are other things like permitting fees for potentially dangerous and dangerous animals, noise citations, but really, the licensing is the biggest part of that revenue. So when we look at that and how it kind of plays into answer your question about, you know where does it go? It essentially goes into our general fund, which is spread across a few divisions. Field services, which are our officers that are in the field helping with stray animal impoundment. Animal rescues, helping people who've been bitten by animals. Neighborhood patrols, that kind of thing. Our medical services team, which operates our spay and neuter clinic, as well as our treatment center in our shelter, you know, taking care of all of the lost pets that are in the shelter and the pets that are available for adoption, and then also it goes into our administrative team, which are pet retention team, the clerks that you will talk to if you call us on the phone or come in that are going to provide that frontline assistance with you in the shelter, and that's really where it goes. It's not, you know, individually parsed out to say, okay the licensing money will specifically go to support this. We have a pretty fluid budget from year to year. The city fees increase per the consumer price index every year, but the rest is really the revenues are based on the services we provide, and how much of that, and then the board subsidy really, you know, is weighted against all the other needs of all the other departments in the county, so that could change from year to year, so really goes into -- the short answer would be, goes into the general fund, but it's really what that general fund goes to fund, which are a lot of our innovative programs and you know, really compassionate care for the animals.
15:28 Lorien Clemens
Well and that's one of the things I absolutely love about pet licensing is, it's about all the pets that are in your community and you never know when your pet is going to desperately need those services -- which is why we have something like Lost Pet Prevention Month. So let's talk about that. Lost pets in your community, so you've got the PetHub ID tags, the newest thing that just launched this month. It's super exciting, but what else do you guys have in terms of lost pet services in your community and what should somebody do when they've lost their pet in your community?
15:58 Steve Burdo
Sure, in our community again, we're a pretty large county, so Finding Rover is a great online social media tool to use in terms of you've lost a pet -- that's a place where you should always go to post them, you know, I always say, always contact the shelter first or do whatever you can do. Again, we have PetHub tags so if you can scan that QR code and see what detective work you could do yourself, that's great, but also Finding Rover, Next Door is a great tool. You know really, since the advent of Next Door we've seen a lot of lost pets being returned through that venue. You know, again, the power of social media. I don't know if you're active on your local Next Door account, but a lot of it makes you just wanna go, no I don't want to see that, but then...
16:48 Lorien Clemens
Yeah well we're there for the animals.
16:50 Steve Burdo
Exactly, but you see what it's doing to reunite, you know, lost pets with their owners and that's really a powerful tool, and then there are other innovations I'll call them that we're using and this plays into the recent award we won from Maddies, which is, every shelter operates with their shelter management software, right. We use Chameleon. Some people use Shelterhub. Some people use Shelter Love. Chameleon is our database, and it's pretty robust, and we're figuring out how to leverage that platform into ways that we can better engage our community, and within Chameleon, there's a platform called Postmaster, which if you can create the proper triggers, you can send automatic communications to people. So one of the things we did, was we developed, it's called the Postmaster Report, where if a dog is -- any animal -- is impounded as stray from let's say the city of Richmond, right, on any given day. If we have somebody who's willing to receive that email and network that animal in the community and say, hey this lost animal is found in our community, use their local next door account, 'cause I'm not going to be on that account. I don't live in Richmond, you know? So get that communication to them and then they could network the lost pet with the hopes of finding the owner. So we set that up, which is, you know, every day at 6:00 o'clock, if you are the person that is signed up for that community. You're getting that email that says, hey, here are the lost pets that were found in your community today and a lot of that is our volunteers that are doing that in their communities. Some of them are city partners, and the city partners is really great because when they're doing it, they have a broad social media reach. If the city of Richmond puts that on their Facebook account, you know, that's going out to 36,000 followers, all pretty much are in Richmond. So that's another innovation that, you know, we've recently done, but really, one of the best things that we saw, and this came out of, you know what we learned during the pandemic, was our return to owner rates or we're in the transition of calling it returned to home now, because that's really what it is. Our return to home rates skyrocketed during the pandemic. You know, we were tossing around the reasons why, is that because, you know, people are at home more and realize their pets are lost?
19:21 Lorien Clemens
19:22 Steve Burdo
But really when we -- after seeing many months of data, we realized it was because around late April of 2020 we stopped charging RTO fees for first-time offenders. You get those fees out of the way and those animals go home, and so we're in the process right now of requesting approval from our Board of Supervisors to permanently wave RTH fees.
19:49 Lorien Clemens
That'd be awesome!
19:51 Steve Burdo
Which I think will be a game changer for us.
19:52 Lorien Clemens
Well there are some communities that we work with that if you have a pet license, they're automatically waived, and it's kind of another carrot to like get people to license their pet, like look, that's a get home free card, if you license your pet and so I love that.
20:06 Steve Burdo
And that is the -- that's the condition on our end. You have to license your pet for them to get that free ride home.
20:11 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, totally, and now let's just talk about the pandemic. I mean 'cause it's obviously, it's still here. Hopefully it goes away soon, but things have changed and I know things too are going to be changing -- continually changing, but from, at least from the outside looking in when I've been talking to a lot of the shelters that we work with. Some things that have changed because of the pandemic are now best practices, are now like, oh wow, why didn't we do this before, so could you talk a little bit about some of the things that have changed because of the pandemic? That are probably gonna stick around.
20:44 Steve Burdo
Yeah, I think first and foremost is, you know, like I just mentioned, the RTO fees. You know what we learned there was really powerful. The other thing, and it kind of plays into that was, you know, when the pandemic first came on, you know, we were operating at, you know, normal levels in February 2020, our intake was up as it typically is after the turn of the new year, January and February for whatever reason tend to be pretty high intake months, and so when the pandemic hit we needed to get as many if not all of the animals out of the shelter. We didn't really have a functional or operational dog foster program. We had been piloting different versions for a while, within three days, almost every animal was out of our shelter. We stood up a foster program. We had one for cats for many years. Cats and kittens.
21:41 Lorien Clemens
21:42 Steve Burdo
But the dog foster program was something that we really just stood up within a matter of days and got almost every animal out of the shelter. That was really powerful and seeing kind of how that worked and all of these things were -- for literally two years we'd been talking about, how do we get this up? And running into barriers and running into barriers and then the pandemic hits and we said, you know, to heck with all those barriers, we're gonna do this and we're going to, you know, we'll see what happens, we'll throw it at the wall, and it worked really well and now that's kind of morphed into a doggy day adventure program where you could even just come in for a day and take a dog out. Getting them out of the shelter, and who knows where we're at because we're seeing that as of June 15 things have opened up a lot more, but now we're seeing that they may be, you know, shutting down slightly again, but our population was getting back up there and you know -- so having this foster program in our pocket is really important. The other things that we kind of saw and learned during the pandemic that were really helpful and this kind of goes into that last one was, how our community stepped up, and I won't put it any other way, we were asking for help, and our community really stepped up, and when I say community, I mean our staff, our volunteers, but also the residents of Contra Costa County, who may or may not have ever had any engagement with our department said, hey look, I want to help. It was quite amazing and made us realize that, you know, we need to tap our community, you know, more often for these things. We need to not be afraid to ask for help because when we do, our Community steps up, we had resource needs, right? Like a lot of shelters did because supply chains or supply lines, you know, we're kind of impacted, so from our normal vendors we couldn't get gauze or you know stuff that we needed to get. We have an Amazon wish list on our giving page and you know our medical team would say hey we need this, or our captain of field services would say hey, we need leash line runners for people who are at home and need to have their animal in the backyard and can't have them tethered. We put those calls out on Amazon and were overwhelmed by the response we got. If we asked for 50 of something, we got 70 of them. If we needed crates for a transport, right, and we asked for 20 crates, we got 50 of them, so generous the community was, so committed our staff and volunteers were. It really was a great point of introspection for us to take a step back and say, wow, we really are building the organization that we've envisioned.
24:26 Lorien Clemens
That's amazing. I love hearing stories about that, I think I have heard them all across the country. They're really fantastic, and I'm really excited that we can now be part of that community here at PetHub, and one thing actually, that just kind of, I was like, you know what I forgot to mention that when you were talking about resources within your community for lost pets, one of the things that our partnership does now, is that folks can do -- first of all, no matter what kind of PetHub account you have, whether you have our basic one, which is free for life, or you have our premium one, which is a couple dollars a month. You can create a virtual lost pet poster.
24:57 Steve Burdo
24:58 Lorien Clemens
And you can print it out and you've got that there, but if you have our premium membership, you can actually send it out in a 50-mile radius, a shelter alert, and it will go to you guys, it will go to everybody that you want on that list, and then you can take it and you can share it onto your social media. You can share that virtual lost pet poster on Next Door, and it's a little bit different than a standard pet poster because it's virtual, it can change, its dynamic, like all of our things are and so if you have information that you want to update on your pet's profile, you've got maybe a more recent picture. We've actually had dogs that have been sighted, and then they'll be able to put information in the additional information about where the dog was sighted, that kind of thing, so anyway that's another really great resource to put out there.
25:37 Steve Burdo
And you just made me remember too that I think I flubbed it earlier when I was talking about Finding Rover. Fido Alert is the online community where you would go to post your pet. Finding Rover is a facial recognition app that our shelter and other shelters are using as well too, if you find a lost pet, you could take its picture, you could upload it to Finding Rover and it'll search local shelters to see if any pictures match that facial recognition of the pet so I wanted to make sure I got that right.
26:15 Lorien Clemens
I caught that. I meant to say something, but you were busy talking about something else fascinating so I forgot about it.
26:20 Steve Burdo
Before I have the Fido Alert people calling me, and I apologize for that Fido Alert, but yeah, Fido Alert's been amazing in our community and Finding Rover is a great tool too and that kind of gets in with PetHub too because, you know, if you really want to go that extra mile and you find that lost pet, they have a PetHub tag on, you scan that tag, you get the picture of the animal if the owner has uploaded it, now you could take that picture and go to Finding Rover and do a facial recognition match and see if it's there. You could also go to Fido Alert and post that picture and say this dog was found.
26:54 Lorien Clemens
Yeah it's great how everything can work together.
26:56 Stever Burdo
It's all Interconnected.
26:57 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, we're super excited to be part of your community. I want to make sure before we leave, how people can find you guys and support the great work you're doing?
27:04 Steve Burdo
Sure, and you can find us on the web at ccasd.org. So an easy URL, or you could just Google Contra Costa County Animal Services. We went through a website refresh a couple of years ago. We have a pretty dynamic site where there's a lot of things that if you're in Contra Costa County. If you want to look at animals to adopt and even submit an application to adopt an animal, you could do that there. If you want to report a deceased animal, you could do that through our website. We're trying to make it engaging for the public, but yeah, best way to reach us is on the web, ccasd.org. I'd also recommend, follow us on Facebook and Instagram -- Contra Costa Animal Services. Same with Twitter, we put a lot of information out on there, fun information, educational information, you know, when we did our announcement about our partnership with PetHub, we did a how to use PetHub video and put it on our Facebook. That got a great response. We got a lot of media attention about the partnership. Everybody's really, really excited about it.
28:08 Lorien Clemens
Wonderful, wonderful. Well thanks again Steve. Pleasure having you onboard with PetHub. Everybody, make sure you check out in the comments below, we will make sure we put that web address so it's easy to find. Thanks for coming and visiting with us today Steve.
28:20 Steve Burdo
Thanks for having me and have a great day.