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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

Figure 1
History of the Pet Lover’s Program

Figure 1 is a timeline that describes the history of the Pet Lover’s program from 2010 through 2019. In 2010, the Veterinary Board, working with a nonprofit organization began collecting applications and fees to meet the 7,500 threshold. In 2013, the Veterinary Board collected and submitted a sufficient number of applications and fees to the DMV, and the DMV began to issue Pet Lover’s plates. In 2014, the Office of Administrative Law disapproved the Veterinary Board’s proposal to delegate its responsibility for establishing grant application procedures and criteria to a nonprofit organization. In 2016, the Legislature authorized the Veterinary Board to allocate money to a nonprofit organization to distribute grants. In 2016, the Veterinary Board identified conflicts of interest in selecting a nonprofit and directed its executive officer to seek to transfer the Pet Lover’s program to Food and Agriculture. In 2018, the Legislature shifted responsibility for overseeing the Pet Lover’s program to Food and Agriculture beginning on January 1, 2018. In 2019, Food and Agriculture began accepting grant applications and awarded $330,000 in grant funding to 11 recipients.

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Figure 2
One Reviewer’s Application Scores Were Significantly Lower, Potentially Resulting in an Unfair Advantage for Some Applicants

Figure 2 is a bar graph that demonstrates the range in scores for each of the four grant application reviewers. It shows that one reviewer's application scores were significantly lower, resulting in an unfair advantage for some applicants. The bottom of the graph shows four individuals, all of whom are sitting at the same desk. Each of these individuals represents a grant application reviewer. Each reviewer is labeled with a letter A, B, C, or D. Above each person, there is a shaded bar that shows the highest and lowest score that the reviewer gave to the applications they reviewed. Reviewer A’s highest score was 39 and their lowest score was 27. Reviewer B’s highest score was 50 and lowest score was 31. Reviewer C’s highest score was 45 and lowest score was 26. Reviewer D’s highest score was 50 and lowest score was 28. Reviewer D also gave one application a score of 5, but this score was an outlier and therefore excluded from this analysis.

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Figure 3
Pet Lover’s Revenue Continued to Decline With Food and Agriculture’s Oversight of the Program

Figure 3 is an infographic with three panels. The first panel, a bar graph, shows yearly revenue for the Pet Lover’s program from fiscal year 2014-15 through 2018-19, and highlights that Food and Agriculture took over the Pet Lover’s program in January 2018. It also shows that revenue declined from $326,000 in fiscal year 2017-18 to $299,000 in fiscal year 2018-19, and it has an arrow coming from the decrease in those two years pointing to the second panel. The second panel shows text which states that the decrease in Pet Lover’s plate revenue between 2017-18 and 2018-19 was 8 percent. There is also an arrow leading from this decrease to the third panel. The third panel, shows a closed spay and neuter clinic, and explains that the 8 percent decrease in revenue represents almost 500 fewer spayed or neutered animals.

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Figure 4
The Pet Lover’s Program Could Be Insolvent in Fiscal Year 2024–25

Figure 4 is a line graph that shows projected Pet Lover’s program fund balance, projected total expenditures, and projected revenue, beginning in fiscal year 2018-19 and ending with fiscal year 2024-25. The projected expenditures line remains mostly flat across the graph. The revenue line shows a slight decrease, and the space between the total projected expenditures and revenues widens as those lines continue across the graph. The projected fund balance line declines steeply from about $1.1 million to past zero, across the graph between fiscal years 2018-19 and 2024-25. There is also a text box on the graph which states that in fiscal year 2022-23, the projected expenditures will exceed the remaining projected program balance.

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Figure 5
Food and Agriculture Has Failed to Adequately Market or Promote the Pet Lover’s Program

Figure 5 is a table that shows five specialized plate programs and the marketing methods that each program used to promote their specialized plate. The five specialized plate programs listed in Figure 5 are: Pet Lover’s plate, California Agriculture plate, Arts Council plate, Kids’ plate, and Whale Tail plate. The five promotional methods are: DMV flyer, social media, plate website, requiring grantees to promote the plate program, and contracting for marketing services. Both the Arts and Whale Tail plate programs utilized all of the listed methods. The Kids’ plate utilized all methods, except for a grantee requirement to promote the Kids’ plate program. The California Agriculture plate, which Food and Agriculture also sponsors, only used two of the methods: social media and a plate website. However, the Pet Lover’s program only utilized one method, a website that promotes the Pet Lover’s plate.

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