TUSTIN, Calif. (KABC) -- An online petition calling for Orange County Animal Care to resume public visits without appointments is gaining momentum.
Misty wasn't the fur baby Margot Boyer was looking for.
"She'd got two massive hernias that were almost on the ground as she was walking and you could see that she was quite old," Boyer said.
Grieving the loss of her Chihuahua, Boyer went to OC Animal Care, or OCAC, in search of a younger, healthier dog. Boyer said had she seen Misty online, she would've never chosen her.
"But she looked at me sort of trotted off and gave me a little lick on my hand and that was it," Boyer said.
Boyer says that face-to-snout meeting saved her Misty. She wanted other, perhaps less-desirable dogs, to have the same chance and organized this petition on Change.org asking the shelter return to visits without appointment requirements. Boyer decided to collect the signatures after she heard the shelter euthanized 28 dogs in just more than six weeks in June and July.
The agency's assistant director, Monica Schmidt, said they don't claim to be a no-kill shelter.
Schmidt said since she took on this role in 2019, dogs here have been humanely euthanized only because of behavioral or medical issues.
"As a municipal shelter, one of the things we are tasked with is public safety and animal welfare and that does mean that our team often has to make critical and important decisions that sometimes involve euthanasia," Schmidt said.
In 2019, the OCAC changed its adoption process because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interested visitors have since needed an appointment with a dog they choose online. Walk-ins can book a spot on the lobby desktop.
Staff here said they have kept this model because it has resulting in less dogs returned. According to Schmidt, the adoption return rate for the most recent quarter, April-June 2022, was 6.6 percent, and 7.7 percent for the time in 2019, prior to adoption-by-appointment.
Amy Hernandez is with OCAC Adoptions and an office supervisor.
"We're able to really, you know, dive deep into the animal. It's the behavior and if it does with other dogs or with children, 'cause we want to remember, adopting an animal is should never be an impulse thing," Hernandez said.
Karen Vaughn who said she has volunteer with shelter four years, said she has seen the appointment system hurting dogs' chances of finding forever homes, with families oftentimes turned away.
"We currently have eight dogs that, as of last week, who have been there over a year and this has increased their stress, they have no interaction with people. Some dogs I personally know have gone a week or more without even being let out into a yard or able to walk," Vaughn said.
Schmidt assured Tuesday, there were plenty of appointment openings and said the new system has not affected the adult dog save-rate.
According to statistics on the OCAC website, the save rate for adult dogs has remained in the mid-90s before and after the implementation of the new model.
A closer look showed the adult dog adoption rate down nearly 10 percent last year, when compared to that of 2018, while the rate of these dogs transferred to other agencies nearly doubles when you compare 2021 to 2018.