CONCORD -- A large cardboard box attracting flies and emitting a foul smell sat in the gutter last week amid single-family homes in the Sun Terrace neighborhood.
The box was fastened shut with black tape, and on top was a handwritten note reading, "Contra Costa Animal Control."
Inside the box was a rotting dog carcass wrapped in a sheet.
"This is not good," said Wally Nejedlo, peering down the block at the box. "Knowing what I know about it now, it's now become a public safety issue."
A family living at the corner of Saint George and San Michele drives said they found the dog dead on Aug. 3, put the body in the box and waited for Contra Costa County Animal Services to pick it up.
They said each day they called the county, which has animal officers on patrol seven days a week, but no one came out until Aug. 7.
"It's ridiculous," said the woman at the home who did not wish to give her name. "You can't just leave an animal like that. We wouldn't leave people out there like that."
The incident may be hard for some to fathom, but it illustrates the reality for animal services in Contra Costa, its staff stretched thin, said Deputy Director of Animal Services Rick Golphin.
"Unfortunately, that is not unusual," Golphin said. "Sometimes it takes several days to get around to the animals."
Such delays are a mixture of priorities and territory, said Golphin. The state requires animal control officers to
On Aug. 7, there were 215 calls by around noon. Of those, 45 were bite investigations and 53 were dead animal calls.
"It's hard for any of us to stomach, but the primary purpose of animal control is the rabies prevention control program and public safety," Golphin said.
He added, "It's not an excuse. The fact is, if a bite comes in or an injured animal comes in, the (dead animal) disposal gets pushed to the bottom."
The county's Animal Services contracts to patrol every city in the county except Antioch. Its officers patrol roughly 740 square miles and serve a population of 900,000.
During each shift, there are three or four officers on the road, working from early morning until midnight. After midnight, officers are on call, said Golphin.
Concord Vice Mayor Bill Shinn has seen his share of animal control issues with his 29 years in the county sheriff's office and, in retirement, as a hearing officer for dangerous animal cases. Shinn said animal control does what it can with what little staff it is given.
"Even still we get complaints from Concord residents that the animal services people don't respond as quickly as they think they should," Shinn said. "I think they do a pretty good job overall. It's kind of a thankless job. You have to have a passion for animals."
Word of the dog in the cardboard box reached county Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, and her office called animal control Aug. 7. The dog was picked up hours later.
Golphin, who does not typically work in the field, borrowed a county truck and picked up the dog in Sun Terrace himself. There was then 52 other dead animals on Animal Services' list.
Golphin said the family did the right thing, and he felt sorry about the situation.
"They went above and beyond," Golphin said.
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.