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California Department of Food and Agriculture
Poor Management Threatens the Success of the Pet Lover’s Specialized License Plate Program

Report Number: 2019-121

March 26, 2020

The Governor of California
President pro Tempore of the Senate
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Governor and Legislative Leaders:

As directed by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, my office conducted an audit of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (Food and Agriculture). Our assessment focused on the Pet Lover’s specialized license plate program (Pet Lover’s program), and the following report details the audit’s findings and conclusions. In general, we determined that Food and Agriculture used a significantly flawed selection process in awarding grants for funding free or low-cost animal sterilization services and that although the Pet Lover’s program is at risk of failure due to declining revenue, Food and Agriculture has not adequately responded to this risk to ensure that the program remains viable.

In our review, we found that Food and Agriculture failed to verify the eligibility of grant applicants before awarding grants, which resulted in grants to two ineligible entities. Further, Food and Agriculture’s grant selection process was unfair. Food and Agriculture relied on a single review of each application, but one reviewer consistently scored applications lower than the other reviewers, which likely disadvantaged certain applications. In addition, Food and Agriculture did not always select the highest scoring applications for grant awards.

We also found that revenue for the Pet Lover’s program has declined over the past five years. In fiscal year 2018–19, expenditures exceeded revenue, which could jeopardize the program’s ability to fulfill its mission to fund free or low‑cost animal sterilization services. Nevertheless, Food and Agriculture has neglected opportunities to market the program and has done little to try to increase revenue.

Respectfully submitted,

California State Auditor

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