Wednesday, March 19, 2008

King Co. Animal Shelter--A Stinking Mess

The King County Council is holding a public hearing on April 14th about the deplorable shelter operations documented by an outside consultant. Per the consultant's report, these same systemic problems were occuring back in 1998. Despite increases in shelter operations budgets since then, conditions haven't improved, and are the same or worse than the last series of independent inspections.

Burnout of workers in animal care is fairly commonplace, especially in "kill" shelters. But there's apparently been no real recognition of the potential problems burnout can lead to by King County, so there's no system in place to minimize it, prevent it or deal with it.

So if you have staff or management working in an animal shelter who don't come from a mindset or a life philosophy that animals absolutely have basic rights and deserve our kindness and care, who don't feel personally responsible for the animals, and who aren't self-reflective and don't understand how humans can become uncaring and cruel because of burnout, then you have systemic disasters like what has been going on at the KCAC shelter.

In general I oppose privatization of public services, but in this case I conditionally support Councilman Bob Ferguson's call to privatize the shelter operations, as long as it is operated by a long-established animal welfare group such as the Humane Society or PAWS. These groups have the correct mindset towards animals, understand the challenges of shelter staff burnout, and know how to deal with it and keep it under control.

Among other things the consultant found:

1. Animals without food or water, sometimes for days.

2. Animals housed in filthy cages, not cleaned for days.

3. Numerous open cages while adoptable animals languished unseen in back rooms (note--KCAC has strict time limits on how long an animal is "adoptable" before it is euthanised).

4. Staff not following basics of santiary cleaning procedures or animal handling.

5. Staff not keeping accurate or complete, updated records.

6. Staff not cross-checking lost animal reports with shelter animals and not entering lost animal reports into computer system.

7. Non-compatable animals put together--leading to severe stress, food hoarding, fights and injuries.

8. Staff not relocating animals once non-compatability determined.

9. Animals not being vaccinated.

11. Cruelty and neglect reports not followed up, properly investigated or documented.

12. Outdated "contagious disease" notices posted in adoption areas falsely implying current outbreaks (which could negatively impact adoptions.)

13. Facility showing significant wear and tear (same physical plant problems as last time).

14. Unsanitary food storage and handling.

15. Sick animals housed with healthy ones. Quarantined sick and injured animals not closely monitored.

16. Substantial difference in conditions and staff conduct when consultant pre-announced versus surprise or "undercover" visits.

17. Significant management and staff turnover, with new management not having background in animal care/shelter management.

18. Staff "doing own thing" with animal care--not following procedures and guidelines.

19. Donations of food and money not used for animal care.

20. No follow-through on spay/neuter coupons leading to minimal improvement in pet overpopulation.

21. Disciplinary procedures inadequate or simply not followed.

1 comment:

Animal Shelters said...

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