Animal Shelters: Memphis, TN; Flagler County, FL; Appomattox County, VA

Memphis, Tennessee (population 646,889): A new shelter could be the first step toward a new future for Memphis Animal Services without former shelter director Matthew Pepper. Memphis Animal Services has faced a government raid, employees charged with abuse, and the recent resignation of Pepper. With a nationwide search underway for a new director, employees are being retrained again in data entry.

Cindy Marx-Sanders, a member of Community Action for Animals, is concerned about new shelter records obtained by Action News 5 investigators. Marx-Sanders pointed to records that show 592 dogs killed in July and August with no reason given. The city directed questions about the records to Chief Administrative Officer George Little.

Other records show the shelter has more than 1,300 open calls as of September 15.  Some of the calls include “investigate bite” and “investigate cruelty” calls. “Officer Activity Reports” appear to show some officers not getting in the field until an hour after their start time and coming back to the shelter two hours before they are off. Action News 5 calculated nearly 20 hours unaccounted for in the logs at the start and end of an animal officer’s shift in just a 12-day period.

While Marx-Sanders believes many shelter employees are doing a great job, she is concerned the city does not always fire the ones who are not. One of the reasons is because of a provision in a union agreement with the city.  It says, “any employee who does not receive any disciplinary action for a period of six (6) months, shall have his or her record cleared.” That means employees disciplined in January could have a clean slate by July. Little said he will bring up the clean slate issue during annual negotiations with the unions in animal services and other departments, but he expects resistance. Little said there have not been consistent yearly performance reviews citywide.  The administration plans to change that. Read more at wmctv.

Flagler County, Florida (population 94,901): Animal lovers rallied at Monday’s Flagler County Commission meeting and succeeded in quashing a vote that could have put small, private shelters out of business. The commission already approved the first reading of ordinance-code changes that would make shelters and sanctuaries a “permitted special exception” in agricultural districts, and require them to have a minimum of 10 acres and no more than 50 animals, among other restrictions.

“No. No. No,” was the cry of about 20 from the gallery after County Administrator Craig Coffey recommended approval of the second reading, with tweaking to come after the ordinance was on the books. Instead the commission voted to table the vote until the Nov. 7 meeting, and hold workshops between now and then with shelter operators.

Palm Coast resident Rebecca Bearss put the acreage requirement per animal in perspective for commissioners. “That’s more than 4,356 square feet for a small dog or cat,” she said. “This is an area large enough to park 20 full-sized vehicles. I don’t think it’s a criterion for caring.”

Planning Director Adam Mengel said the ordinance changes were the product of “extensive staff work,” and that anyone legally operating a shelter would be grandfathered in, but the statement didn’t carry much weight with Debi Root, operator of Second Chance Rescue.

“I don’t think three minutes is enough time to address all the problems with this ordinance,” she said. “I don’t have 10 acres, but it’s not about acreage. It’s about care.”

The County Commission on Sept.19 approved the first reading of the ordinance amendment, which was spurred, in part, because a court order preventing the owner of the Pig Tales Sanctuary in western Flagler County, Lory Yazurlo, from keeping pigs expires in November. There is nothing on the books currently to regulate shelters or sanctuaries, said county spokesman Carl Laundrie when the code changes first appeared on an agenda. Because private sanctuaries are not required to register with the county, officials there have no idea how many may be in existence. Root took exception to the stipulation that a code enforcement officer would be sent to investigate complaints versus an animal welfare officer.

“Implement an inspection process and have a check list,” she said. “The problem is that you should know who the sanctuaries are and regulate them. You can have two animals neglected and abused on 100 acres. You can have 100 animals on 2 acres and they are all well-cared for.”

After listening to concerns, Commissioner Barbara Revels said the “document needs to viewed holistically,” and Commissioner Milissa Holland added that no “unintended consequence” should be made with the code changes. Mengel recommended altering the county’s “kennel ordinance” that deals with anyone who has four or more cats or dogs.

Another concern that arose out of Monday’s meeting is for hunters who often keep four or more dogs for their sport. “Lots of our hunters have more than four dogs and are, in effect, operating a kennel,” Mengel said. “Everything, when you turn it over, other things come up.”

Palm Coast resident Jane Culpepper told the commission it was about to kick over a hornet’s nest. “Don’t make a decision today. Give these people a chance to give some input and do it right,” she said. “It’s about time for the elected officials to listen to the people even if it’s a knock-down, drag-out (fight).” Read more at the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Appomattox County, Virginia (population 14,973): Appomattox County is taking steps to bring its animal shelter up to state regulations after the county was slapped with a $1,000 fine last month. The county board of supervisors was notified of the violations prior to its July meeting. For two months, the supervisors had been discussing with the state how to remedy the problems, County Administrator Aileen Ferguson said Monday. At its Sept. 22 meeting, the county accepted a consent order agreeing to pay the fine and remedy the issues, which included sanitation, veterinary care and the length of time that animals were held before they were killed. Ferguson made brief mention of how the shelter will be instituting written protocols regarding all three areas of concern, at the county Board of Supervisors meeting Monday. In addition to mandatory protocols, the order also notified the county that its facility would be subject to unannounced inspections through December 2012. The county could face a fine of $20,000 for not complying with any part of the order. Ferguson said sanitation was an easy fix, but the killing and veterinary care protocols could end up costing the county a significant amount of money. Ferguson said when an animal with no owner is given care, then has to be put down, the cost could quickly add up. She said the county is working with a local veterinarian to develop standards. Each measure would be brought before the board before a decision is made to implement it. Read more at The News & Advance.


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