Sunday, February 5, 2012

(Sutter County) Veterinarian's report echoed calls for action in 2007

February 05, 2012 12:43:13 AM
By Jonathan Edwards/ADjedwards

Animal control workers and government officials are hurrying to fix problems that killed hundreds of dogs and cats since they were first identified 41⁄2 years ago.

A report issued two months ago by veterinarian Richard Bachman of Shelter Medicine Report echoed the calls for action made in 2007 and affirmed last year by the Sutter County grand jury, saying not much had been done to fix serious and systemic problems.

"Conditions for care within the shelter have not improved," Bachman says in his report. "Comprehensive medical program and population management policies are indeed needed."

Things have gotten worse in some respects. The number of dogs and cats flowing into the shelter increased by 14 percent to nearly 4,600 animals in the five years between a 2007 report from Folsom-based Citygate Associates and the Bachman report.

The number of animals euthanized at the shelter, however, skyrocketed by 52 percent to 2,330, while the number adopted went down by 5.4 percent to 1,000.

Even though the number of animals went up, the amount that died in the shelter went down by 18 percent, to 317. That's still about 70 times higher than the state average, according to Bachman's report.

To reverse these trends, Bachman recommended the shelter stop using inmates from the jail to care for animals, start an in-house veterinary program, overhaul management, create a volunteer program, modernize shelter protocol by incorporating policies and procedures vetted by the veterinary community, build a new shelter and make emergency upgrades to jury-rig things in the meantime.

They were not new suggestions. Many were outlined in the Citygate report and later affirmed in the grand jury report, released last April, which ripped the shelter for killing animals by spreading disease, poor management and making in inhumane conditions.

Bachman's report took a more subdued tone, and even praised shelter workers for helping him conduct his investigation and displaying a commitment to bettering shelter conditions.

Still, he reported "a true discord" existed between the shelter's condition in October and the 57 changes Citygate proposed in 2007.

Citygate labeled nearly all those actions mandatory, critical or strongly recommended they be implemented and said staff should complete most of them within six months.

The grand jury reported nearly four years later that shelter workers made few of those recommended changes, something Bachman echoed in November.

In the wake of the grand jury report, the Sheriff's Department investigated the shelter on charges of animal cruelty leveled in the grand jury report but did not file charges.

Shelter staff bristled at the grand jury's numerous rebukes, criticizing jurors for flogging the program without offering solutions.

Jurors, in fact, sprinkled solutions throughout the report, Bachman wrote, but workers lack of experience and training may have prevented them from seeing and acting on them.

"The staff had no real exposure to an organized shelter medical program of the expertise for understanding how to start a shelter medical program," Bachman wrote.

Things had improved between the grand jury's investigation and Bachman's visit. During his inspections, he didn't find evidence of the rat infestation that the grand jury noted as serious risk to the health of both animals and humans.

At Bachman's recommendation, the county bought a portable trailer it's now using to house kittens, clean laundry as well as wash food and water bowls.

Bachman also recommended buying another trailer for medical care, something the county has not done.

Officials also bought new cat cages and got containers for storage. They also made improvements to prevent disease by getting hot water, buying better cleaning supplies, preventing animals from making contact through their cages as well as sealing the floors and layering walls with nonabsorbent surfaces.

The county spent $124,000 over the last seven months to make emergency repairs.

The stop-gap measures are not good enough, Bachman wrote in the report. The 26-year-old shelter continues to stand in the way of bettering life for the region's wayward dogs and cats.

A new shelter won't be a cure-all, however. In fact, a bigger shelter with a more complex design could make things worse, Bachman reported. Unless officials get better management to implement a program armed with proven practices, the new shelter "is destined to be plagued from the outset."

Read more:

No comments: