Changes Must Be Made to Stop Baldwin County Animal Shelter from Returning to High Kill

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This petition is addressed to the Baldwin County AL Board of Commissioners (Frank Burt District 1, Chris Elliot District 2, Tucker Dorsey District 3, Charles Gruber District 4, County Administrator / Budget (Ron Cink), and the Baldwin County Animal Shelter Board of Trustees to express serious concerns regarding the treatment of animals as well as the operation,management, and oversight of the Baldwin County Animal Shelter in Summerdale AL.


Several 501c3 Non-Profit Animal Rescue organizations working with the Baldwin County Animal Control Center for several years have successfully rescued hundreds of animals from this shelter. Our involvement with the former Director made a 1.5 year no kill rate of healthy dogs possible in Baldwin County. Since Baldwin County assumed control in October, changes in staff and practices have eroded this relationship with your constituents and rescue organizations; and more importantly, destroying healthy dogs has skyrocketed and the quality of care and behavioral and mental health has plummeted. Liability is a HUGE concern for you, just as the animal's safety and welfare are HUGE concerns for us. We believe both of our concerns are mutually beneficial to the goal of compassionately providing adequate food and shelter for the animals while making them available for rescue and adoption.


Operational protocols for routine, daily procedures are constantly in the process of being written and approved, and access to animals is denied. Independent and unbiased regulatory measures are non-existent. Everything is done in-house and without taking reasonable steps to promote the behavioral and mental welfare of the animals. Instead, the shelter is left to supervise itself, be monitored by budget personnel, and be advised by a hand-picked Board of Trustees. All of which has been happening without the spirit of transparency suggested in the Code of Alabama sections 3-10- 2, 3-10- 3 and 3-10- 4 as reports have not been shared upon request.


Evaluation of animal behavior is not carried out in a consistent and objective manner. The director was heard saying she relies on her gut to determine whether a dog is aggressive. Using this technique has resulted in numerous dogs having "Do Not Walk" signs posted on their enclosure while turning away offers of help from trained animal behaviorists. Rescue organizations have been denied the opportunity to assume responsibility and rehabilitate certain dogs without a substantiated explanation. All too often, there is a rush to make judgment and destroy beautiful, healthy dogs. On the rare occasion rescue organizations get an explanation,
staff cite consensus with veterinarians; however, this constitutes a conflict of interest since these veterinarians are members of the Board and financially benefit from euthanizing the dogs.


Qualifications of shelter staff do not appear to be in line with their assigned duties. Members of rescue organizations witnessed several handling errors with current staff. Recently, two major incidents occurred because dogs were not properly secured in their kennels. Staff did not know how to properly de-escalate the situation and take control of the animals. Staff have been observed flinching from certain dogs even when the dog is securely in his assigned enclosure. In fact, they have promoted unwanted behavior by encouraging the dog to play with their bare
hand. All this implies little to no training--beginning with basics such as walking an animal on a leash.

We, the undersigned organizations and persons, are requesting the following actions:

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. REPLACE THE CURRENT DIRECTOR. Let this document serve as a vote of no confidence in the ability and qualifications of the current director. We recommend removing her from her post and replacing her with someone who knows the difference between animal control and an animal shelter. Someone who does not demonize dogs, but rather one who is compassionate and understands the physical and mental needs of dogs in a shelter setting.


2. REVISIT MANAGEMENT OF THE SHELTER. Proposals have been submitted in the past without the benefit of transparency, so they were destined to fall short. Please consider opening the door for a qualified agency or consortium of agencies to re-submit proposals.


3. TRANSPARENCY. Excuses and secrecy permeate the shelter. Make information readily accessible. The work of rescue organizations is time-sensitive, so access to timely exchange of information is essential. Data from the previous month's report is too late to save lives. This impedes the collaborative efforts necessary to achieve our primary mission of saving dogs lives while maintaining the safety of staff, volunteers, and rescue organizations.


4. MISSION. Develop a Mission Statement and Strategic Plan for the operation, management, routine monitoring, and impartial oversight of the Baldwin County Animal Shelter.


5. OBJECTIVES. SMART objectives should be developed SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The key here is objective, consistently applied to assess job performance. It also applies to evaluation of dogs' physical, mental, and behavioral health at intake and daily so immediate intervention can take place as needed.


6. ANIMAL ACTION PLANS. Develop and maintain action plans for each animal. The key here is to tailor plans that both promote optimal physical and mental health (i.e., vaccinations, de-worming, living conditions), and encourage stimulation for dogs to avoid  psychological decompensation --especially long-term residents.  Allow the recues and their volunteers to have access to the dogs and provide the extra attention the dogs need for the best outcome.


7. STAFF TRAINING. Develop or identify existing training for staff who handle dogs-- beginning with the basics. Do not assume previous experience takes the place of quality training. Bad habits and emotional triggers should be addressed.


8. OPERATION. Develop or identify existing operational protocols necessary to operate and maintain the Baldwin County Animal Shelter. The key here is to provide procedural guidance that is clear, concise, and consistently applied. Impartial internal and external checks and balances should be included to avoid an autocracy. We recommend adding a representative from one or more rescue organizations to the Board of Trustees.


9. MONITORING, EVALUATION, AND QUALITY CONTROL. Develop or identify existing protocols for regulating and monitoring the 1) shelter, 2) its employees' performance, and 3) the animals' physical and mental well-being. Protocols should include assessment and quality control methods and tools with built-in internal and external checks and balances to avoid an autocracy.

10. AMENDMENT - DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT AN ACTION PLAN FOR CATS.  This plan should include receiving stray cats and developing a good adoption plan for them;  establishing relationships with cats rescues to provide resources for unadoptable cats; setting up TNR programs in every city in the county; starting a barn cat program.   The current solution of leaving the cats on the streets to fend for themselves is not acceptable. 

REFERENCES:

 Code of Alabama 3-10- 2/3/4
 SMART Objectives poster
 Association of Shelter Veterinarians Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters
 Beltrami Humane Society Strategic Plan
 Keys to Successful Performance Measures (for Animal Shelters)



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