Sep 022011

— By Sam Conner

Several items concerning the Winslow Animal Shelter have come up for criticism at recent Winslow City Council meetings. Most, but not all, have come from Ellie Merritt and Judy Howell. The council even received copies of a proposal from the Silver Creek Regional Humane Society representative to operate and share the operation of the facility. That same night it also received a letter from former Councilwoman Judy Howell critical of recent events at the shelter.

City Manager Jim Ferguson responded to most of the criticism during an interview several days later. He said that the city does have problems and is working on ways to solve them. He said that he is at the shelter several times a week, and that Alan Rosenbaum is there every day and sometimes several times in a day. He said that there were definitely problems, but that they were not as bad as critics have said. Still, he agrees that they are important and is working to improve the situation.

Howell’s letter read in part as follows: “Council, your dog pound, and I say pound because you cannot call it an animal shelter, the way it is being run. It is shameful. The city is doing a real disservice to the animals.

“In the last month a litter of puppies (eight to 10) approximately six weeks old were euthanized. The city claims the reason for it was parvo. However, one of the puppies from this litter was adopted earlier in the week. Yes, it had diarrhea from being fed the wrong food. It did not have parvo. The puppy is doing fine in his new home. The vet stated that he saw no sign of parvo at the so-called shelter.

“Another dog was taken to the shelter in good condition. Last week when the dog was to be picked up for adoption it was covered with ticks. Apparently the ticks came from the pound.

“Last week a black and brown terrier mix came there all matted and covered in mud. As of noon today (Tuesday) the dog had still not been cleaned. Shameful.

“State statute about the proper care, maintenance and destruction of impounded animals note that an animal impounded shall be given proper care and maintenance. Any animal destroyed while impounded shall be destroyed only by the use of one of sodium phenobarbital or T-61 euthanasia solution or its generic equivalent. If an animal is destroyed by those means it shall be done by a licensed veterinarian or in accordance with procedures established by the state veterinarian.

“These procedures require two persons trained by a licensed veterinarian or trained by a licensed trainer to be present when the animal is destroyed. This does not appear to have been done in the case of the litter of about eight puppies destroyed at the Winslow Dog Pound.

“I would like the council to find out and report the answers to the following questions: 1. Who destroyed the puppies? 2. Who else was present? 3. How much training by a vet or licensed training did this person have? 5. Who trained this person?

“Council, you have a serious problem with your dog pound. It is evident that even after two dogs froze to death last winter, the situation at the dog pound is not being taken seriously and the city is failing to take proper care, maintenance and destruction of impounded animals. It is time for a change. Put the dog pound issue on the next agenda. Set down rules to protect the animals, or vote to out-source the administration of the dog pound to a Humane Society or other humane non-profit organization that is trained to take proper care of the animals entrusted to them.”

In response to some of the specific charges in Howell’s letter, Ferguson said that an unexpected loss of personnel was a factor. He said the puppies suspected of having parvo were dropped off at the shelter sick, and were euthanized by a worker who did not follow procedure and call a veterinarian as should have been done. The animal which was muddy and dirty was quarantined, and should not have been cleaned before being seen by a veterinarian. To clean him earlier may have made the situation worse.

He said that both veterinarians in Winslow are on call and work with the animal shelter. He said that one of the improvements he would like to see is much more close work with the veterinarians and the animal shelter.

There have been a lot of turnovers in personnel at the animal shelter, with some reportedly quitting with little notice and others not performing tasks as expected. One of the goals of the city is to attract a staff to man the facility with capable personnel. That would also entail being able to properly train the personnel, and have them learn from the veterinarians and know when to call them for assistance.

The letter from Barbara Olear, president of the Silver Creek Regional Humane Society, was written in response to a meeting with a city official who asked if that organization would take over the Winslow Animal Shelter as a non-profit business society in harmony with animal control and city regulations. She was asked to submit a proposal, which was completed on March 4.

The letter explained the proposal, the experience of the society, and what its staff and volunteers would do. It also noted that grants and funding are available for animal control and the society, but that with the city’s delay in making a decision, hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars were not available to benefit Winslow.

The letter also said that the conditions of the animal shelter in Winslow had been observed and it was known, for instance, that an animal control officer with much experience had quit recently and left the facility understaffed with no state certified euthanasiaist on the staff. The letter closes by saying that it is time for the city to make a decision.

Regarding this letter and the Humane Society, Ferguson said that the city was still interested in working with the Humane Society and the veterinarians. He said that he would like to see a facility where animals were well cared for and had quality health care in clean and safe conditions.

He said that the facility currently in use has more than its share of problems. The engineering department is working on cost estimates for building a facility that would meet the needs and be good for the city, the Human Society and the veterinarians. The city is looking into the possibility of grant funding for such a facility and has some hope of success. As Rosenbaum said, “Success breeds success,” when it comes to getting grants.

Such a facility would help all concerned, including people who would help arrange the adoption of pets which have been spayed or neutered and gotten all of their needed shots.

Ferguson noted that he has worked with the Humane Society before and appreciates what they do. Winslow needs to take better care of the animals in the community and that is a goal he intends to reach.

In a later interview Ferguson said that he and Rosenbaum are working on the staffing problems, which are the key to improving the animal shelter. He said that the shelter is full, and that Second Chance from Flagstaff had been contacted and would come take some of the animals for adoption. He said that he would like to see some of the animals adopted by Winslow residents.