Sunday, April 5, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 5

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 19th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 51 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 51

County volunteers look for answers in animal services director firing

By Zac Ezzone

Santa Barbara County has fired its Animal Services director less than a year after she was appointed, and volunteers aren’t happy with the decision.

Volunteers spoke up in defense of the county’s former Animal Services director, who was fired on Feb. 6, at the Feb. 11 Board of Supervisors meeting.

During the county Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 11, volunteers who spend time with animals at county shelters spoke in defense of former director Tara Diller. Of the nine people who addressed the board, a few had to hold back tears as they commented on the positive progress they’ve witnessed with Diller in charge.

“[Diller] wanted to bring us to the forefront of animal care and welfare to bring us to where other animal shelters are within our nation,” volunteer Barbara Upson said. 

Upson told the board about some of the ways Diller improved the county’s shelters, such as allowing the public to access the rows of kennels where animals are kept to let people see more animals, and hopefully increase adoption numbers. 

Upson also mentioned partnerships Diller built with other organizations in the county, such as with C.A.R.E.4Paws, the Good Samaritan Shelter, and Northern Santa Barbara County United Way’s Home for Good program. The county announced on Jan. 27 that these organizations are introducing more pet resource centers in North County. At these locations, pet owners who are in need can pick up cat and dog food, along with other supplies, and sign up for veterinary care.

Natalie Stevens, a representative from the Santa Barbara County Animal Care Foundation—a nonprofit that works alongside and provides funding for the county Animal Services—said prior to Diller taking over, morale was low among volunteers and staff within the department. 

“The culture began to change,” Stevens said. “The instability that had been felt over one and a half years was subsiding. We were all moving forward, our partnership strengthening. Last Thursday [Feb. 6], Tara Diller was fired. We feel shocked, we feel concerned, and we feel confused.”

Following their comments and demands for more information, the Board of Supervisors thanked the volunteers for their commitment but said they couldn’t comment on personnel decisions.

“We can’t say a lot about the details of this case, but I think the entire board is committed to ensuring that you are engaged as partners going forward,” 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said.

The county announced Diller’s hiring in a press release on March 14, 2019, and she began working in this role on April 8. According to that release, Diller had worked in the animal welfare industry for more than 17 years. Prior to working for Santa Barbara County, she served as Ventura County’s Animal Services director for five years.

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