July 6, 2011

Back to the drawing board

Troubled Animal Services seeks new leadership — again

In the week that saw Louisville Metro Animal Services’ 3705 Manslick Road shelter briefly shuttering its doors due to a viral outbreak, the city announced it would change course yet again in a nearly decade-long quest to turn around the troubled agency.

Seemingly breaking a campaign pledge to replace MAS’ haphazard interim directorships with permanent leadership, Mayor Greg Fischer announced in the spring that he would instead outsource sheltering and adoptions to any private organization that submitted the best bid to the city.

Yet at the end of that bidding process, the response was underwhelming: Only No-Kill Louisville, a nonprofit animal rescue dedicated to zero euthanasia, had submitted an application; the Kentucky Humane Society, long thought to be the front-runner given its size and political clout, had not.

Thus the following about-face:

“We must now strive to find a leader who is innovative and experienced to make that happen,” Fischer said in a press release sent out last week, echoing elements of his initial campaign platform. “We need a leader who can bring together animal advocates and our entire community. Metro Animal Services is an agency facing many challenges, but, in recent weeks, we have already seen some improvement, including better communication with rescue groups that has led to more animals being adopted. Animal Services staff also responded well to the recent threat of floods. It leaves me hope that, with the right leadership, we can transform the agency.”

Judge Sadiqa Reynolds, Fischer’s chief of Community Building, cited a handful of reasons for the rejection of No-Kill’s bid, including a lack of experience operating an animal shelter and the fact that the nonprofit sought nearly $1 million above the city’s asking price.

No-Kill President Jessica Reid feels the city didn’t take her organization’s proposal seriously.

“Now I think we were never even in the game,” Reid wrote on her Facebook wall. “The reasons given could have been explained or dealt with had we had a conversation with the mayor’s office. If we’d had a conversation I might feel like we were given a fair shot and if they had then decided to turn us down, I’d have believed they did their best. I’ve lost confidence.”

The fallout has created a bit of a rift within the city’s zero euthanasia movement: Amidst the tumult of the bidding process, three members resigned from No-Kill’s board.

One of those former board members is Leslie Spetz, owner of Spetz Custom Framing & Gallery, who thinks that despite the hard work put into the proposal, No-Kill simply wasn’t up to the task of running a shelter full-time.

I still support the No-Kill mission,” Spetz says. “I just think there’s a lot more harm being done now than good. I’m having a problem with some of the onslaught through the media … some things that have been said that probably shouldn’t have been,” referring to the reportage of Reid’s Facebook post.

“It’s frustrating because something needs to be done immediately, it’s so horrendous (at the Manslick shelter),” Spetz adds. “But then again, I don’t know if (No-Kill) could have done it. But the argument there is ‘why not at least let them try?’ But the thing of it is, it was probably more than they could handle; I just don’t think they could’ve really done it.”

The Louisville Kennel Club’s Barbara Haines, who currently sits on No-Kill’s board but was not involved in drafting the bid, offers an assessment similar to Spetz’s.

“No-Kill has only been around a little over a year, it’s an all-volunteer organization, it has no paid officers, it has no paid staff, it has nothing attached to it, no capital,” Haines says. “They have experience working at the shelter, but working at Ford and running Ford are two totally different skill sets.”

In the meantime, the Manslick Road shelter has resumed normal operations after workers and volunteers attempted to disinfect the facility after a confirmed June 30 outbreak of what the city claims was one case of distemper virus, which attacks animals’ gastrointestinal tracts and nervous systems. However, emails obtained by LEO Weekly reveal that multiple cases of distemper have been confirmed in dogs and cats.

One of those emails was written by Susan Neumeyer, MAS’ current interim director, who on July 2 notified rescue groups of “three confirmed cases of canine distemper,” a figure that doesn’t jibe with the solitary case mentioned in a press release sent out by the mayor’s office announcing the Manslick Road contamination.

Another email, dated June 28 and written by a volunteer cat rescuer, mentions two cats pulled from Manslick that were infected with and eventually succumbed to distemper.

Even worse, multiple sources — including Spetz, who routinely volunteers at MAS — say the agency’s new adoption-centric facility, 3516 Newburg Road’s Animal House, has already been tainted with the introduction of pneumonia parvo, which leaches into surfaces making it extremely difficult to eradicate, as well as distemper.

With LMAS seemingly leaderless and facing more of the same problems, mayoral spokeswoman Lindsay English says Fischer wants to have a new director selected by the end of the month, but suggests setting a specific date for their arrival “would be putting too fine a point on things.”

“But I think it’ll also depend on the candidates themselves and sort of where they’re coming from and how much notice they’ll need from their previous job.”

She says the administration will cull the new director from the list of 26 originally compiled by the search committee initially charged with the task when it was formed on Jan. 14 of this year. 

Board Resignations and Ford Comment

By Jessica Reid
Regarding the recent story on No Kill Louisville’s (NKL) bid to take over LMAS’ adoptions: The author suggested that we had three board members resign during and because of the bidding process. This is inaccurate. Leslie Spetz left following a disagreement regarding a committee; Allison Woosley, who is connected to Mayor Fischer, left following a criticism of the mayor by board member Barbara Haines, also quoted in the story; and the final board member left due to family/time issues. ALL three left *before* NKL decided to put in a bid. As for Haines comparing NKL’s bid to Ford employees trying to run Ford, my response is a simple one: LMAS is *not* by any stretch of the imagination Ford. That would suggest it was actually run like a business. Haines never told the board she felt NKL should not put in a bid. Not every board member has to agree, but the bottom line is most of the board members did believe we should submit a bid and many of them worked very hard to put together a solid proposal. The truth is we don't have political clout or endless amounts of money - so you have a mayor who isn't listening *despite* the fact he was at our first fundraising event last year; had a booth at our Million Mutt March; and had a “meet and greet” at one of our co-founder’s homes, not to mention the thousands of No Kill supporters who were promised change. Jessica Reid President, No Kill Louisville p.s. why is speaking out for the animals and AGAINST politics as usual and the status quo something that "shouldn't been said"? It's amazing the people that want me to play "nice" while animals are killed - by the thousands! p.s.s. how do you make these returns show up on here so it doesn't look like a crazy paragraph with words shoved together?

Metro & NKL

By hazit24
I think Ms. Reid is mistaken in thinking that people are asking her to be silent while animals die. Quite the contrary. However, her facebook page clearly reflects that her group cannot handle the operations of a public facility by the way they conduct themselves. I have seen very little professionalism when it comes to them speaking their minds, Ms. Reid included. It amazes me how many will jump on a "band wagon" and "follow the leader" simply in the name of saving animals with no regard for experience, or lack thereof of it's group leader. Recently a man surrendered his cat at the shelter as he was homeless and had no job. The frenzy of name calling and other phrases was despicable. How will NKL greet you at the public facility if you are surrendering an animal? My guess is people won't want to deal with that and then will dump the animal on the street versus confrontation with the holier than thou staff NKL would enstill. Saving animals is about educating the public and about being professional in your duties. You cannot have success when your first inkling is to run to your FB page and scream foul and call the Mayor a name or rant about the owner who dumped his cat. That is not professional. While many in this community are for less euthanizing of our companion animals, we'd also like to see someone in there running the shelter who actually has experience running a city shelter, not just rescuing or fostering which are completely not comparable. Again, working at Ford is different than running Ford as pointed out by someone else. My guess is even with a new director in there that will try their best, we will keep seeing the NKL leader and members crying foul, because it isn't them running the show.

Obviously you didn't take

By justadoglover
Obviously you didn't take the time to read the actual comments on the Facebook. Only a few people were upset the man was giving up the cat. The vast majority were upset with the fact that he wanted it put down within a matter of hours if they didn't find a home for it. This is a typical sign of a person trying to cover up animal abuse, asking the animal to be put down rather than giving the shelter time to find it a home. I'm glad No-Kill is a passionate organization. You need people passionate to run shelters, people who care about animals. Go take a look at Metro right now if you want to see what people who aren't passionate look like running a shelter. I don't blame No-Kill for being angry, and if you knew anything at all about the conditions at Metro, you'd be angry as well (assuming you care about animals). Metro has an 80% kill rate. Nothing they do is organized. They do very little to help these animals get adopted. Pretty much all the attention on adopting the dogs this past week came from private groups. Private groups fund almost every medical problem, many of which are made worse by mistakes at the shelter. Their staff makes basic mistakes like this distempter vaccine problem all the time. I know of at least one person whose dog had worms even though it was supposed to have been treated for this upon entry. But the Manslick shelter has not one single computer, so what do you expect? Animals with broken bones and injuries have gone untreated. They run out of food all the time. The shelter itself was built in the 1960s. It is filthy and has no heat or air conditioning. Up to five dogs are placed in a single cage. All the while the directors (who have all been terrible) make somewhere in the $90,000 range. So yeah, people are mad. Especially when our tax dollars are being wasted on things like overpaid directors who don't care and vaccines that aren't used. Is there an organization with more experience out there? Sure. Are they stepping up and offering to help? No. Because they know that shelter is a huge mess and they don't want to take it on.

accurate medical information

By salamander7
I want to clarify some information. Cats do not contract canine distemper. The old-fashioned, misleading and outdated term, "feline distemper" actually refers to Panleukopenia, which is contracted by cats. Conversely, dogs can't contract Panleukopenia. It is true that two cats did contract Panleukopenia and did die and it is unfortunate that the misleading term was used to discuss the death of these two cats from Panleukopenia. It is also unfortunate that the inclusion of this topic into Mr.Meador's story without clarification, may lead to misinforming a great many readers. Cats have many challenges in the shelter environment but canine distemper is not one of them.

Obviously you're mistaken

By redemptionrescue
To justadoglover: You obviously know little about LMAS and probably repeat the misinformation you've heard. The facts are: 1) I agree that LMAS needs a director who is committed to getting every possible animal out alive. This is a universal desire. 2) Being "angry" and actually doing something to improve the conditions are different topics. 3) Metro's kill rate is not 80%. It's closer to 60% and varies slightly by month. Please contact LMAS and request their statistics for 2010 and the first half of 2011. This is public information and they will send you the files. 4) The adoption event last weekend left LMAS with a grand total of 74 dogs, most of which were new arrivals still on stray hold, court cases and confiscations. This number is significantly less than the +- 300 dogs from 2 weeks ago. 5) When the numbers are released, you will be pleased to learn that the community stepped up and adopted the majority of these pets. Rescues pulled a lot, but the residents are heroes. 6) Not all intestinal worms can be treated by one wormer. If an adoptee's dog had worms, they were not covered by the spectrum of the wormer used at LMAS. This is why new adopted dogs should see a vet just to make sure. 7) Medical mistakes at LMAS: When dealing with this sheer volume of incoming animals, mistakes can be made. It is unlawful for LMAS to perform a medical procedure on an animal that is not legally theirs - hence the 5-day stray wait. If a stray animal is suspected to have a broken leg (LMAS has no x-ray), all they can legally do is splint the leg, give pain meds and anti-inflammatories until the stray hold is achieved. Then the animal can be transferred to rescue for additional treatment. 8) Distemper: it's probable that the initial infected dog entered the shelter with distemper. Vaccinating the dog at that point could not "cure" it or help the condition in any way. Read up on distemper. 9) The Manslick shelter is both heated and air-conditioned. I have no idea where you got your information. 10) Manslick has numerous computers, printers, cameras and scanners that are used every day for every task. 11) If you think $90k is overpayment for a director, please research the salaries of shelter directors in similar markets. This figure is comparatively low. 12) Is the shelter a mess? That's your opinion, and you obviously don't spend any time there.