Dozens of issues require “immediate attention” at the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center, according to a professional group’s assessment made public by the county Sunday night, a little more than a week after county commissioners fired the director of the shelter.
As many as 30 “emergency action items” are outlined in the Team Shelter USA report for the facility under increased scrutiny by animal welfare advocates in recent months.
“The Commissioners and I were troubled and dismayed by the overall findings of this report,” said Montgomery County administrator Michael Colbert. “We care deeply about the well-being of people and pets in our community. We have made improving the Animal Resource Center and increasing our live release rate a top priority for our administration.”
The county has already taken steps since a review meeting with Team Shelter USA, including ousting Mark Kumpf, the ARC director since 2006, and appointing Bob Gruhl interim director. The county is also hiring a fulltime outreach coordinator to focus on working with rescue organizations and on adoption.
Team Shelter USA’s report also asks the county to consider dissolving the current advisory board and replace with an ARC Task Force.
Due to the report, the county also plans a number of steps to increase the live release rate. Animal rights advocates say a live release rate of 90 percent or higher is more in line with modern shelter standards. But the rate last year at the ARC was much lower: 56.7 percent.
Some of the steps include:
· Discontinuing routine temperament testing
· Adding new protocols that ensure the adoption area is full at all times
· Implementing fee-waived adoptions until further notice
· Eliminating physical exams and fecal tests by vet staff unless there is a clear medical need
· Fast tracking hiring for open positions to ensure appropriate staffing levels to implement best practices
· Change in cat control contracts with jurisdictions to transition to Return to Field (trap/spay/neuter/release) programs in the jurisdictions
Kumpf’s removal eases the way for 2019 “to be a transformative year” for the facility, Colbert said earlier when announcing that Kumpf’s employment with county was ending.
The shelter has been under fire in recent months by animal welfare advocates for putting to death animals too quickly — in some cases while their owners are still looking for them.
“From my point of view, it is not a shelter, it’s a death row,” former Dayton Mayor Paul Leonard previously said. Leonard is also an attorney representing a couple suing the county over the resource center’s euthanasia practices.
County officials say more than 3,000 dogs and cats were euthanized last year, but a vast majority of them were unhealthy, untreatable and in pain, according to the county.
Kumpf, is also a named defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit of Klonda Richey, who was mauled by a dog in Dayton after she alerted the ARC about two dozen times to a problem dog next door. Court documents filed by Richey’s estate allege key evidence in the case was destroyed by the ARC.
Team Shelter USA assessed the facility’s operations from Nov. 26-30. Dr. Sara Pizano created Team Shelter USA, and the group also included Dr. Becca Boronat of the Charleston (S.C.) Animal Society, Cameron Moore from the University of Florida, and Dr. Kim Sanders of Anderson County (S.C.) PAWS.
The shelter handles about 10,000 animals each year and animal care and control officers respond to over 15,000 requests for service annually that usually involve rescuing a lost, stray, sick or injured dog, according to the county. Additionally, the agency investigates about 1,200 complaints of canine cruelty or neglect each year.
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