The City of Cleveland Kennel may be one of the most underfunded, understaffed, and neglected municipal animal control facilities in the country. Often confused with the Animal Protective League (APL) and Cuyahoga County Kennel, the City of Cleveland Kennel is responsible for holding abandoned and injured dogs found in the city. A disproportionate number of these dogs are bully breeds (e.g. dogs identified as pit bulls or pit bull mixes).
For many years, the Kennel has been in disrepair and its conditions have failed to protect animals from disease exposure and stress. It is lacking adequate ventilation, a cooling system, easy to clean cages, a sufficient number of outdoor runs, and consistent supplies to meet the basic needs of the animals. Granted, the Kennel was a facility originally built to hold dogs for owner redemption or euthanasia, but, thanks to the efforts of dedicated citizens, many of the dogs brought to the Kennel are now available for rescue or, in some cases, direct adoption. The current building is not equipped for this revised and more humane mission, and that is part of why the City needs to hasten the process by which the new and promised Cleveland Kennel is constructed.
In the meantime, we need Mayor Frank Jackson to address the following pressing and serious problems at the current Kennel:
We need a veterinarian and rescue/adoption coordinator on staff at the kennel. Unlike most municipal shelters, Cleveland does not have a full or part-time shelter veterinarian who works on the premises. A staff veterinarian would have the ability to meet the immediate medical needs of the dogs, including but not limited to injury and wound care (especially critical for those dogs who have been used for bait in dogfighting), the treatment of infectious disease (especially for those dogs with kennel cough, which can escalate quickly into serious respiratory ailments like pneumonia), and the care of curable conditions (especially mange) which can hinder a dog’s chances for rescue. Staff veterinarians can also dispense prescription medication as needed (assuming a budget for this; see below). While we are happy to see the Kennel enter into a new partnership with Westpark Animal Hospital, we continue to insist that the long-term and most effective solution for the Kennel is a full or part-time staff veterinarian who can address the medical needs of the dogs on-site.
The Kennel also needs a rescue/adoption co-ordinator on staff who is able to oversee and facilitate foster/rescue partnerships as well as direct adoptions. Without a dedicated staff member in the Kennel doing this work, the time-consuming and demanding work of recruiting fosters, answering emails, facilitating meet and greets, screening rescue applications, coordinating sponsorships, and arranging transport for the dogs falls to the same small group of unpaid volunteers who are assuming this work in addition to the demands of their professional and personal lives. This is unsustainable. It is also siphoning of volunteer energy, as a good portion of this work could—and should—be handled by a dedicated and salaried member of the Kennel staff. Because the City has a stake in reducing the euthanasia rate of adoptable animals, it is necessary that the City dedicate resources to realizing this goal rather than continue to rely upon unpaid labor to keep the kill rate low.
We need a budget for medication and veterinary equipment so that we can diagnose and treat the dogs that come in sick or become sick while being held at CAC.
As mentioned, the City does not have a paid veterinarian on staff, so the Kennel cannot provide the required medication to treat some of the dogs who contract infectious disease while in the facility. The Kennel also cannot provide adequate medical care to animals that arrive with preventable illness or treatable wounds. And, unfortunately, without this onsite care, some of the dogs rapidly decline and/or develop escalated forms of disease that prove costly to rescues that pull them or the two advocacy groups that raise monies for vetting: the Friends of the Cleveland Kennel and Badges for Bullies. The Kennel needs a budget that allots a sufficient amount of money for medical supplies and equipment so that a staff veterinarian and vet technicians can control the outbreak of infectious disease as well as increase the chances for an individual dog’s survival and rescue.
We need paid staff members who are trained to facilitate meet and greets. Once more, the City of Cleveland relies on the availability of a small group of dedicated volunteers to take the dogs out of their cages for prospective fosters to meet. If these volunteers did not do this, the dogs would not be able to leave their cages. This places a significant burden on these volunteers, who must be available during their own work hours or lunch breaks, sometimes with little or no notice that someone is interested in meeting a dog. If the City is serious about facilitating more rescue and adoption, they need on-site paid staff that are able and willing to help these dogs interact with prospective fosters and their families.
We need more weekend and evening hours for meet and greets, adoptions, and owner redemptiions. The City Kennel currently closes at 3 pm, and this makes it incredibly difficult for prospective fosters and adopters to see our dogs without taking a day off work. It is especially difficult for people who are travelling to Cleveland to meet a possible foster, as they must get to Cleveland and book a meet and greet before the last slot at 2 pm. We need extended hours in order to guarantee that these dogs have the greatest chance of being seen—and, by extension, rescued—by the public.
After the public has had a chance to review and comment on existing plans for the new kennel, we need the city to commit—clearly and unequivocally—to the completion of a timetable for construction of the promised new build. And then we need deadlines in place for any company that contracts to do work on the Kennel.
It has been a number of years since the City of Cleveland allocated five million dollars for the construction of a new and improved City Kennel. The movement on this new build has been painfully slow, and the time for action is now.
We want public discussion of the proposed location and plans for the new building (including input from different stakeholders in the veterinary, rescue, and volunteer communities), a clear timetable for completion of the agreed-upon design, and firm deadlines for any company that bids for work on the Kennel.
We want to be sure that the land parcel that has been selected for the Kennel will be large enough to accommodate the building as well as provide ample green space for walks and exercise. It is very important that we build this green space into the footprint for the new Kennel, as a shortage of it will replicate the problem that we have with our existing location and would be enormously short-sighted. We also ask that the Kennel be built in a location that is easily accessible to the public.
We want the new Kennel to provide humane accommodations for the dogs, protect the animals from disease exposure and preventable forms of stress found in a kennel environment, guarantee high quality ventilation and regular air exchange, build clearly defined isolation and quarantine areas, provide indoor enriched and outdoor spaces for dogs to exercise and interact, build public reception and get acquainted areas that are welcoming to prospective fosters and adopters, and make provisions for the accommodation of a sudden influx of animals due to natural disaster or larger scale legal cases.
We want the appointment of a Kennel Board that will help ensure that the City builds the best possible facility for the animals. This Board can be configured to include city officials, animal control and humane officers, contracted professionals, and Cleveland citizens who are active in the work of animal advocacy and rescue.
Because of the devotion and hard work of CAC volunteers, the City of Cleveland Kennel has significantly reduced its euthanasia rate in the last sixteen months, and we have reason to believe that this same community—with the right resources and support— has the ability to move Cleveland in the direction of a no-kill city.
Mayor Jackson, we need your leadership now.