Montgomery County’s parting with longtime Animal Resources Center Director Mark Kumpf will put the beleaguered facility on a new trajectory to improve the outcome of animals in its care, both county officials and animal welfare advocates said Tuesday.
“We feel that 2019 is going to be a transformative year for our Animal Resource Center,” Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert said a day after announcing Kumpf’s employment with the county would end Friday.
“We heard the community’s concerns, and we are making the necessary changes to address them,” he said. “Our primary goal is to improve our shelter operations, so that we can better serve our citizens and meet the needs of the animals in our care.”
The departure of Kumpf, ARC director since 2006, will be addressed during closed personnel actions at a Thursday county commission meeting. The county declined to say Tuesday whether Kumpf’s employment is ending voluntarily. Last week, the county confirmed Kumpf was not reporting to work, having filed a workers’ compensation claim.
The ARC has drawn scrutiny — peaking in recent months — from animal welfare advocates about the number of animals put to death at the facility. The shelter has also been subject to lawsuits — including court cases alleging neglect in preventing the dog-mauling death of Klonda Richey in 2014 and the destruction of records afterward in the case, to a more recent claim that a companion animal was put to death with little effort to find the owner.
Consultants with Team Shelter USA gave the ARC a top-to-bottom review during the last week of November but have yet to issue a final report, which will be implemented by a Bob Gruhl, the new interim director named to the job by Colbert last week.
“The Board of County Commissioners and the County Administrator desire to move forward with new leadership at the Animal Resource Center in order to implement recommendations of the recent external review,” read a letter Colbert sent to county employees Monday.
“We made a commitment to the community that we would create a comprehensive strategy to improve operations and implement best practices at the Animal Resource Center. I have confidence in Bob Gruhl and his ability to lead and make the necessary changes and process improvements at the shelter.”
A live release rate of 90 percent or more should be the benchmark for modern shelters, said Team Shelter USA creator Dr. Sara Pizano, who will provide the county with a host of recommendations. Last year, the ARC rate was 56.7 percent. The number has improved this year, topping 75 percent in July, but dipping to less than 63 percent last month.
Montgomery County Commission President Debbie Lieberman said some policies have already been adjusted since Team Shelter USA was in town and others will soon as Gruhl replaces Kumpf.
“It’s not our first step, but it’s a major step in moving forward,” she said. “We don’t have the final recommendations yet, but we really want to implement what our experts have told us, and I think it was a decision that we need a fresh start.”
Those critical of the ARC in the past revealed a renewed optimism after the last two county announcements.
“It is a long and needed move in the right direction,” said Blake Jordan director/community outreach for the Miami Valley Pit Crew Rescue, Inc. “The most we can hope for is the beginning of policy change, not only in the way they handle the intake of dogs, but also their community outreach.”
Paul Leonard, a former Dayton mayor and an attorney representing a Kettering couple suing the county over the facility’s euthanasia practices, said it might be necessary for the county to let others go in order to get the kind of improvements likely to be reflected in Team Shelter USA’s recommendations.
“I would hope this is not the last decision when it comes to changing personnel,” Leonard said. “Obviously, those are the people that make a decision on whether or not a dog lives or dies.”