Saturday, August 7, 2010

ASPCA report on municipal shelter

Recently, a team from the ASPCA's Community Initiatives was invited to Las Cruces to help our shelter and community with proactive and modern approaches to our animal-welfare issues. They were invited here by the shelter's director, whose focus is usually outside the shelter's walls and on the ongoing overpopulation issues we have here with cats and dogs. What the shelter manager did not foresee and what the ASCMV Board did not expect was that this group of seasoned professionals would be so shocked by the state of overcrowding and improper housing in our animal shelter that the group was impelled to write a report and offer to come to our community to help us turn things around.

What is even more shocking for myself, as I have been calling for shelter reform for some time now and even became a broken record on this blog, is that our shelter's oversight board would react so defensively to the ASPCA. I felt for sure that this time they would have that light-bulb moment I have been wishing upon them for years; instead, they are entrenching themselves even more deeply in the rhetoric that the shelter is doing the best it can because it is so overwhelmed with animals.

Let me remind everyone that our shelter is no more inundated now than it has been in the last 15 years. Our rate of intake is the same. What has changed now is that the pendulum has shifted all the way from empty cages to cages and crates overfilled with animals and with basic animal sheltering practices of intake, routing, animal husbandry, and shelter medicine not being implemented at all. What has resulted is a situation that is going to explode if something is not done about this soon.

The shelter has also been using a double-wide trailer to house dogs in for many, many months. What is wrong with this picture is many-fold. They house dogs in small crates 24/7 with little time away from the intense confinement; they have issues with cleanliness; they have serious rat infestation issues, etc. This trailer is not designed to nor should have ever been used for this purpose.

Guess what? The ASPCA team agreed. They called for the immediate cessation of using this trailer to house animals and for our shelter to never use it again for this purpose.

Please see their report, which is copied next. Please urge our leaders to work with the ASPCA and take them up on their offer to come out and help our shelter start from scratch. It is really our only hope.

ASPCA Report:

August 2, 2010

Request: Beth Vesco-Mock, DVM, Executive Director, ASCMV approached Karen Medicus, Senior Director, ASPCA Community Outreach, asking if there was any way the ASPCA could provide assistance with the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley. Karen suggested she visit the shelter with an ASPCA team to explore areas for assistance and collaboration.

The ASPCA team toured the shelter on July 27, 2010.

Situation Found at a Critical Level:
Building capacity has been surpassed beyond minimal standards for space requirements per animal.
Care and husbandry of animals not consistent with basic/adequate infection or disease management.
Facility is in a state of disrepair. HVAC system needs repair and kennel surfaces in need of repair and sealing to allow proper disinfection. Trailer house not appropriate for animal housing. There is no way to properly sanitize or ventilate this building.

Immediate: Need official request for ASPCA assistance from the joint animal services board agreeing to:
Stop receiving animals at this location until building repairs can be completed.
Remove all animals from the building and transfer animals that can be placed with placement organizations within and without of the City of Las Cruces.
The ASPCA will provide assistance from our Field Investigation and Response team to transport animals out of the area.
Decontaminate and repair the shelter building.
Discontinue use of trailer house building for animal housing permanently.
Work with assistance from the ASPCA shelter veterinarian, Dr. Mc Reynolds and team to develop the plan for management of shelter flow, and herd health.
Coordinate all media outreach and interview opportunities with ASPCA media and communications team to ensure consistent and proper messaging.

Intermediate- If requested the ASPCA will facilitate a community planning process to engage the community in joint life saving programs for the community animals.

Proposed time-line:
Week of August 2 – 6
Karen Medicus return to Las Cruces, on evening of the 4th, meet with Dr. Beth and her staff at 7:30 am on the 5th and attend the Board meeting at 9 am. Karen will be available until 2:30 pm on the 5th to work out details and answer questions if the Board asks for ASPCA assistance.

Identify location for delivery of shipping crates and supplies for transfer of animals to placement partners.

Week of August 8 – 14
Dr. Mc Reynolds return to Las Cruces with two team members to assist ASCMV staff with identification of animals appropriate for transfer to placement partners, complete medical, paperwork, etc.

Cease animal intake on 11th.

Continue spay/neuter surgeries.

Week of August 15 – 21
ASPCA team arrives in Las Cruces with transport vehicles to begin transfer of animals.

ASCMV staff begins cleaning and decontamination of vacated animal holding areas.

Continue spay/neuter surgeries.

Week of August 22 – 28
ASPCA staff begin work with ASCMV staff on reorganization of operations and development of SOPs

ASCMV staff continues decontamination.

Contractors begin HVAC repairs and kennel wall and floor sealant process.

Continue spay/neuter services.

Week of August 29 – September 4
Finish SOPs and begin personnel management plan and staff training.

Continue repairs on building.

Continue spay/neuter surgeries.

Weeks from September 5 through September 26
Continue building repairs until complete.

Continue spay/neuter services.

Week of September 26 – October 2
Begin intake of animals and re-open shelter.


Anonymous said...

A great idea but what about the 3000 animals that will be brought in while the building is repaired? Nothing about them in the report. This area has no other facility.

Michel Meunier said...

Our shelter's oversight board is up in arms about the closing of the shelter for 60 days, and they have basically closed the door on the ASPCA because of this. But, look at this report ... it is short and intial. We have to sit down with the ASPCA and work on the details of what happens to the homeless animals in our community those 60 days. There are options; the possibilities are endless, and mobilizing the community to help and Animal Control to pitch in are a must.

For example, the Dona Ana County Humane Society is sitting on a pretty big chunk of donated funds (roughly $300,000-$500,000). Surely, they could donate some of those funds to go toward temporary way stations for the animals. Volunteers could be used and trained to help care for these animals while the shelter staff is getting trained by the ASPCA staff.

Other options are to transfer more animals out during that time period using the ASPCA's vast network of shelters and rescues and asking Animal Control to only bring in those animals absolutely necessary. They could stop trapping and catching cats for two months, for example. That alone will reduce the intake by hundreds each month.

Our shelter needs this drastic makeover. The physical facility needs it, and so does the staff and management. We should be negotiating with the ASPCA and working to make this possible. Instead, our leaders are turning their back on this offer for support from seasoned sheltering experts.

How stupid and irresponsible is that?

Evelyn Hancock said...

I could not agree more, Michel. This is the opportunity that we have been hoping for, and for the shelter director, oversight board, city council, county commissioners to begin making excuses for not taking the ASPCA up on this generous offer is criminal to say the least.

I call on every citizen, that genuinely cares about the well being of the shelter animals, in Las Cruces and Dona Ana County to step up to the plate and help by contacting these agencies and demanding that they begin serious discussions with the ASPCA to fix our dog pound into an up-to-date, clean and properly managed animal shelter.

Anonymous said...

why dont you all quit complaining and get your own building so county and city animal control can take their 1500 plus a month intakes to you and then you take care of the problem. we will see how well you do

Anonymous said...

ok ms meunier please open up your home so animal control can take their intakes to you,
i beleive it was said the intake level was @ 1500 a month or so. hope you have the room at your place

Bill said...

After carefully reading ASPCA report. I see nothing in the report
that reflects on the management and shelter personnel. What I did see where some very critical problems that need to be solved if the community animals are to have a safe and clean environment, even if temporarily. Improving the shelter is a first step in the right direction. After implementing this step, the city counselors and county commissioners need to fund money for a free spay and neuter program. This program will definitely decrease the amount of animals coming into the shelter and will also result in long term saving for for the city and county. If actions on the ASPCA report is not taken, then lets do something, anything is better than the present situation.

Bill said...

There is only one way to solve the problems at the shelter. A very drastic reduction of animals coming into it. Building another shelter will only result in another 300 plus animals filling it up. Of course, a new shelter would provide a much better environment for the animals. The city and county must fund a free spay and neuter program. A reduction of animals coming into the shelter will give everyone more time to address the many other critical problems facing our unwanted animal population.

Anonymous said...

"For example, the Dona Ana County Humane Society is sitting on a pretty big chunk of donated funds (roughly $300,000-$500,000). Surely, they could donate some of those funds to go toward temporary way stations for the animals."

First, unfortunately there is no facility that can accommodate such a large number of animals. Constructing one that would house such a large volume would take a long time, especially since zoning would be involved, etc. Second, you have no business suggesting how other organizations spend their money. I'm sure plenty of people would love to tell you how to spend APA's donations, but it's no more their place to suggest than it is yours.

James said...

I have a few questions? Isnt the trailer a quarantine area for sick animals to help prevent spreading? Why is this a bad thing? unless of course you want all the animals in the shelter sick and costing yet more money for medication and having to put more animals down? Repairs are a great idea, however um is the ASPCA going to front the money Or maybe Michel can pitch in his paychecks and open up his house to the animals during this time frame? Isnt the shelter operating on a limited budget and the intake, care and, medicines and services is costing close to or more then that then unless someone else fronts the bill I just don't see where the money is coming from? Correct me if I am wrong but per county/state laws this shelter cannot deny any animal that is brought in regardless of condition? so where are they supposed to go if there are no other shelters in the area? Again maybe michel wouldn't mind having a thousand sick dogs at his house or fronting the repair costs and education programs to FIX this problem. The bottom line is this, I don't believe that anyone in this shelter doesn't want to address or fix this problem, nor is anyone denying it is a problem, but where is this money coming from? We've all been paying out more then we make at one time or another, you do the best you can with what you have. Now I think if Michel, or the owner of this blog wanted to pony up the dough for this elaborate new facility that would be wonderful. But thats only part of the problem, look at prisons for example, you got a facility that houses two hundred thousand for example, but you have 300 thousand prisoners a year coming in, what do you do? build a bigger prison costing more money or do you solve the problem like that sheriff in Arizona who makes it so horrible in there people don't want to come back? So if the laws got stricter on pet owners and fines being imposed, more money on pet education programs, that would go a long way to aiding this issue, LESS PEOPLE GIVING UP PETS, LESS INTAKE. point being fixing the shelter is great but if all the money goes to that, where is the 1500 plus a month animals going to go and where's the money for the care going to come from, wouldn't they die the same if the money for food wasn't there Because it was used up for repairs that wont stop the intake? or hey petition the county / state to change the law to be able to be more selective on its intake like the ASPCA can, then the shelter wouldn't get so full because the option to decline some would not over fill capacity. I didn't read anywhere in this article about where all this money is going to come from? The blog owner didn't answer it, michel didn't answer it, Evelyn didn't answer it and I certaintly didn't see anywhere that the ASPCA was going to donate it? So Where is going to come from? Oh well let's print thier own...It certaintly isn't the staffs fault as they do what they can with what they have, and they Have to by Law take all animals that come in. Not thier fault again. They don't have a quarantine area so they created one using what was available, Ok it's a trailer, Can't afford to build a new one, and can't put them with the rest, and most will probably die from the illnesses, and Law says you can't refuse them, so what do you do? Michel, Evelyn, Blog owner, ASPCA, Got Room? Don't present a problem without knowing all the facts and not have an answer and then get pissed off when it's not possible to achieve do to circumstances beyond thier control. I think the Board has it's reasons for not allowing the ASPCA in to HELP, my guess is they can't answer the big question SHOW ME THE MONEY???

Carrie said...

James, you couldn't of said it any better... Great comments James and Bill... I applaud your boldness and truthfulness!

Anonymous said...

I agree with James. Couldn't of said it any better. Now there is someone who has their facts straight!

Michel Meunier said...

No offense to James or anyone else, but what facts does James have straight? First of all, he is referring to the blog owner and Michel as separate people. They are one in the same, James. I am Michel, and I am a woman, and I author this blog. If you have the time to read back over some of my old postings, I answer many, MANY of your questions along the way.

The issue with the trailer is they are housing dogs in drop-down kennels not meant to hold dogs for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is an unsanitary place to house sick or any other animals, and it goes against any animal shelter standards you can find. There are ways to quarantine off areas in our animal shelter's main building; following shelter medicine protocols established by UC Davis and other veterinary schools is the way to go for that.

Finding funds for these improvements is incumbent on the municipality that runs the shelter. Before they took it over, it was being run by a humane society with a budget of little over $500K a year. Now, that budget has increased to near $1.9 million a year. So, don't tell me that we don't have the funds these days to do a better job.

There are many, many open-admission shelters that follow best practices in their industry. There's no excuse for us not doing the same.

Now, of course an individual like myself can't house 1500 animals. That type of comment is just couner-productive.

I do agree that we need more shelter and more options for our homeless animals as well as more programs and services outside of the shelter walls that can start to decrease the intake. Punitive laws and punishments are not the answer; that has been the status quo for decades now in our country, and not until Richard Avanzino in San Franciso found innovative solutions to issues did our country see that it can and should be done differently.