Animal shelter investigation findings, action

ST. GEORGE – This morning, the St. George Police Department released its report and findings on its Professional Responsibility Complaint Investigation regarding the St. George Animal Shelter. The report confirmed many of the allegations of mismanagement of the shelter and  mistreatment of animals to be true and found other allegations not sustainable.

The 11-page report, presented by Dep. Chief Richard Farnsworth, detailed all persons interviewed, all allegations investigated, and findings.  According to the summary included at the close of the report:

After a careful review of the interviews and complaints from animal advocacy groups and a comprehensive review of the practices at the Shelter, it is clear that changes were required in many areas. Specifically, the physical structure, management practices, policies and procedures needed to be updated. Many of the issues are being addressed and the Shelter is currently in compliance with every requirement of theResolution adopted by the St. George City Council. Euthanasia practices will be addressed through policies and directives to conform with best practices. Additionally Shelter Manager, Sgt. Ivor Fuller, is working closely with animal advocacy groups and experts in shelter management to make changes in the management of the St. George Shelter that put the care of the animals as a top priority.

The findings confirmed the allegation made by animal rescue workers that Animal Control Supervisor David Vane commonly euthanized dogs and cats by a method known as intra-cardiac injection, a procedure often referred to as a “heart-stick,” by inserting a syringe of the poison pentobarbital sodium directly into the heart. According to the report, Vane did not always sedate the animals before employing this method. The report found that, while the investigators did not find this practice to be in violation of  law, Vane could not adequately explain the reasons behind his choices to utilize this method. Furthermore, the report found that “Vane used this method of euthanasia for more than 20 years and he has been reluctant or unwilling to change or update his method,” although, the report stated, it is clear that these methods are not consistent with current best practices.

The allegations that Vane abused animals in his care were found to be false; however, in the report, Farnsworth said that the allegations pertaining the heart-stick procedure were being treated separately from other allegations of abuse. The report concluded that Vane did routinely hose down the kennels without first removing the animals. However, Farnsworth wrote that although he found disconcerting the reports that Vane hosed the dogs directly in their face to stop them from barking, “these incidents do not necessarily indicate abuse but are consistent with other poor management decisions.”

The report concluded that the problems at the shelter, while not criminal, were the result of mismanagement by Vane, as well as the lack of comprehensive policies and procedures regarding the management of the shelter. It also found, essentially, that Vane’s people-skills are lacking when it comes to the public while co-workers had positive experience with him. The report stated:

The contrast between what is said about Vane from those who have only known him briefly or who have only had occasional contact with him, and those who work with him on a daily basisis very different. Those who know him personally find him hardworking, dedicated and describe him as someone they like. Those who don’t know him on a personal level or have had conflict with him describe him as caustic and difficult to work with.

Vane, who has been on paid administrative leave since July, was not dismissed as a result of the findings; however Vane has been demoted from his position as manager of the shelter. The report found that, while Vane consistently made poor choices as a manager, it is generally agreed upon that Vane is competent as an animal control officer, and will continue to serve the city in that capacity.

The report concludes with a list of recommendations to improve the structure, policies, and procedures at the shelter – many of which the city has already began to implement. Some of these recommendations include:

  • Multiple changes to the policies and procedures “regarding every critical function of the shelter”
  • Review of management policies, including intake and adoptions, are being undertaken
  • Updates to the structure and landscaping of the shelter
  • Removal of animals from cages and kennels prior to cleaning
  • The provision of bedding for animals
  • The practice of euthanasia has been halted for all animals except for in extreme circumstances of badly injured or vicious animals
  • A review of all training and suggestions for retraining all animal control officers

The complete report may be viewed here: SGPD – Animal Shelter – Professional responsibility complaint investigation and findings.

Email: mflynn@stgnews.com

Twitter: @mflynnSTGN

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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23 Comments

  • Cathy Burrows August 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    We are all greatly appreciative of those animal rights people who are carefully observing the treatment of the animals at the St. George Animal Shelter.

  • Echo August 22, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    spraying dogs in the face to stop them barking? it does border on cruel. i have to wonder how vane and the investigators would like to be sprayed when they talk to much, talk out of turn, interrupt someone or for just talking in general??? i bet my butt that they sure wouldn’t like it!!!

  • Kathy August 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    It’s sad how this was a political ordeal…. Time to get new city counsel and a new mayor.. Not meaning Mr Pike either!

  • Deke August 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    ” it is generally agreed upon that Vane is competent as an animal control officer, and will continue to serve the city in that capacity ” … no it is not generally agreed, if “general” includes the general public. when a city dept fails this badly, the person heading that dept has to be held accountable. Vane’s demotion is not enough … he needs to get out of animal control altogether, especially anything concerning companion pets. I wouldn’t let him near field mice or gophers either … maybe a mosquito control program is more his speed … sic him on those west nile virus carriers.

    • JoeAK49 August 23, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      @Deke & Echo…Dave Vane is a much better animal control officer than you guys are writers. Maybe you guys should team up and start collecting all the garbage you are spewing out.

  • Typical August 22, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    How typical of SGPD to throw an employee under the bus….I hope these concerned animal lovers pay for the upgrade to the animal shelter themselves and leave tax payer money out of this joke.

    • RN August 22, 2013 at 10:59 pm

      The city is actually REQUIRED to run their animal shelter according to the nation wide set regulations. The advocates had to raise their voices to get the city to abide these regulations, it’s not just some random “cry me a river”/ trouble making whining over nothing. No one asked the city to build these animals a palace only that they be treated with respect and humanely.
      The city recently spent more than 900,000 of tax payer dollars on the old rundown Electric Theater building. So if you are worried about where your tax dollars are going perhaps you should ask about that.

    • J. Alley August 24, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      Typical, The St. George PD did not throw the employee under the bus. He did not loose his job. Any employee in any business with a history of poor customer service would have been fired years ago. This man was in charge of euthanizing animals. If there is any question of his compassion in that capacity, he should have been moved out of the shelter years ago.

      You are already paying tax money towards an inadequate animal shelter that is old, outdated and has employees that have history of wrong doing. These concerned animal advocates only want the City to take care of what we pay them to take care of.

  • SGboring August 22, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Accountability in SG is a real problem, I have never experienced anything like what happens here over and over. I’m not sure if this is a good ole boy LDS thing that happens because of a prayer meeting or what but I suspect the entire city leadership and police would benefit greatly from an some annual ethics training. This man clearly and plainly should have been fired. For those calling this a liberal issue I respond saying its a actually a city of SG LDS issue as most are. Walk your talk LDS SG people and learn how the rest of the world engages ethically.

    • yowza August 22, 2013 at 6:18 pm

      Wow captain bigot! Maybe you should pray to your liberal god Obama that he’ll fly in with his magic wand of socialism and sprinkle his Marxism ferry dust on us all so that we too may live in a Utopia of no religion and plenty of food stamps for all!

      • MShabazz September 3, 2013 at 9:01 pm

        Great comeback, yowza. Wow….

  • No tolerance for ignorance August 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    @sgboring. The rest of the world is ethical? Seems like your ax to grind has clouded your intelligence. Ethics around the world are identical to here. Money is the root of it all. Get off your high horse and go where you have more in common

  • lisa August 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    isn’t spraying dogs in the face with a hose similar to what we call waterboarding??? something we deem as torture. but its okay to do to dogs??? let me spray u in the face with a hose and see how u feel about it then.

  • Steve August 22, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Should have been fired, period. Lack of accountability and responsibility is glaring. Sometimes even “nice” people need to be fired.

  • Jackie August 22, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    I have worked as a Volunteer in Public Service at the shelter for three years now and I can tell you first hand that the allegations of cruelty are just exaggerations and opinions. The shelter is antiquated but is presently being updated for both animals and the employees, but in the past, the shelter has had to exist on a minimum budget and no updates.

    If you want to point fingers – point them at the City Council and the City in general. The kennels are kept clean and have a drain to wash the feces and urine down the drain. The dogs are fed on schedule EVERY DAY! The building is air conditioned and heated so the animals stay cool during the summer and warm in the winter. There is a constant barrage of people who come in and walk the dogs. Those dogs get more attention and walking than most back yard dogs do. The cats and kittens get handled constantly and are turned loose to play. Obviously whoever came up with all these allegations has not spent much time at the shelter.

    Beds are a great idea except most of the dogs they get in are not housebroken; love to chew on anything that is available or will just tear them up. The experimental beds that the shelter was “allowed” to have did not stay up, the dogs chewed them up or defecated on them. If you want to have beds for the dogs then stop blaming the staff and make the shelter updated to where they can be put in with more stability and less ability to chew. Instead of blaming Dave Vane for the problems at the shelter, why don’t we give them a proper building, updated kennels, dog runs and more staff?

    The City Council gives money to make more bike paths, put in beautiful street dividers and lights and purchase a million dollar merry-go-round – why is the animal shelter always on the bottom of the list? How is this Dave Vane’s fault? I have had many jobs in my life and I have never enjoyed working anywhere as much as I have enjoyed working at the animal shelter with Dave, April, Kristeen and Chuck. They are good, capable employees who are friendly to people who come into the shelter, assist wherever needed and have gone out of their ways to make sure the dogs have food (Dave Vane – that bad guy) got Walmart to donate dog food when the bags tear, which he picks up and delivers to the shelter!

    I have had friends from Texas, Nevada and California come up and visit the shelter. Each of them has commented that there is NO odor, the pens are clean and the staff is very friendly. They are impressed that people get to walk the dogs and play with them in the play yard in the back (yes, there IS a play yard where the dogs can run around and play – NOW bigger, better play yards are being constructed.

    So far as I can see, it is the usual political baloney and a bunch of people who don’t investigate thoroughly before they shoot their mouths off to the press. Speaking of the press, Mr. DeMille and Ms. Tommer, how can you print such garbage when you don’t have the facts? Have you worked at the shelter? Have you spent any time with the staff to get to know them? Why are you are willing to throw out allegations without checking the facts? It is very easy to put allegations out there, but you need to know that there is more to the story than gossip and opinions.

    During my three years of working at the shelter, I have seen Dave and the staff medicate sick animals, treat wounded animals, comfort frightened animals and pick up some of the nastiest animals I have ever seen – without anyone getting hurt, including the animals!

    I have witnessed the many times Dave Vane has worked with biting dogs so that they can be adopted. He spends a lot of time just “being” with the dogs and has an uncanny knack for getting them to like him. The joke around the shelter when we get a biter is that we’ll have to have Dave make friends with the dog so it can go up for adoption.

    I suggest that everyone stop point fingers at the employees and start pointing fingers at the employer! These problems could easily be fixed with a proper facility, proper medications, more staff and a budget that would support the shelter properly. Get real people – it’s not the little guy here who is the problem it is the bureaucracy, as usual! How come it has taken the politicians so long to look at the animal shelter? Hmmmmmm?

    • JoeAK49 August 23, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      Jackie…Thanks! I agree with everything you said. All the people who work at the shelter are good, hard working people that truly care about the animals left in their care. The problem has always been with the politicians and the city management. The employees at the shelter have been doing the best they can with the resources they were provided. I guess, all this mess was worth it because the shelter is now getting the improvements they so desperately needed. I would ask all those who agree with Jackie go to Facebook and “Like” the St. George Animal Shelter’s page. Thanks again Jackie!

  • Pamala Englert August 23, 2013 at 12:42 am

    I hope at least some people will do their homework and understand the connection between Randy Fields, as the CEO of Park City Group – the correlation between who he is, and the timing of the breaking of the story concerning the animal shelter. While I am an animal lover and firm believer in the quote: “To inflict cruelties on defenseless creatures, or condone such acts, is to abuse one of the cardinal tenets of a civilized society – reverence for life. ~Jon Evans, I also am realistic and logical enough to research when something does not “feel” right.
    .
    Between this and the last article on this issue, I am very disappointed to read so many comments which are judgmental in nature, even vicious toward Mayor McArthur. While some of us may not agree with every decision or action taken by him during his long tenure, no person whom has served this or any community for as long and sincerely as he has, deserves such treatment. Imagine for one moment how any of you might feel to be verbally assaulted as he was, after serving for so many years and accomplishing great things within your community. I do not have to approve of everything he has done in order to know that he sincerely loves his community, and I can hardly imagine how difficult it must have been for him and his family to see such hurtful comments from the very community in which he has worked so hard, for so many years. You do not accomplish hundreds of good and meaningful things, only to be “kicked to the curb” and remembered only for a false perception which was unfairly implanted in the minds of people within your community.
    .
    In my opinion, when Jon Pike was interviewed by the St. George News, and after he clearly stated he did not have all the facts, he should simply have said, “I have no comment until I may review all the facts.” Instead, he chose to take full advantage of an”all too convenient,” politically self-serving opportunity. He could have at any time in his years served on the city council, chosen to visit the animal shelter, as any council member could have. He has served alongside Mayor McArthur for years, and instead of providing any benefit of doubt, he chose to publicly criticize the Mayor.
    .
    Anybody may view campaign financial disclosure reports on the city’s official website. While I will not “draw” a specific conclusion, I will confidently say I feel certain there is “more than meets the eye” at play here. While I sincerely appreciate the advocacy provided by Randy Fields and all people on behalf of precious animals, I do not feel as it was appropriate that he was the largest contributor to the campaign of a city council candidate who “led the charge” so to speak, regarding the animal shelter issue, during the primary campaign. It’s one thing to bring an issue to light; something our community deserves. It’s a completely different matter when that issue is brought out when and how it was. Please just use sound judgment regarding campaign activities, contributions, motivations, actions and words, especially when emotionally-charged issues are brought to light during times seeming too “convenient.”
    .
    If anybody chooses to respond to me, please do not jump to conclusions about what I mean by my statement. It is my opinion, nothing more. I do not directly engage with people who choose not to be civil in their exchanges or unkind to any degree. Thank you so much to those who will “listen,” and choose to think beyond a singular media story, investigative report, or other piece of this or any important issue within our community.

    • J. Alley August 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      You have my attention. I have seen this Randy Fields on the news and felt it odd he’s speaking out about the St. George Shelter where he is an Ivins resident. Would you like to tell us more about this Randy Fields?

  • hopeforlife August 23, 2013 at 5:15 am

    its so sad that things like this happen and that people let this happen. I was always proud to say i was a resident of st george utah but not so sure about that now.

  • Craig August 23, 2013 at 6:16 am

    “Those who know him personally find him hardworking, dedicated and describe him as someone they like. ”
    Are we to believe that those who were interviewed could speak freely? The did not know if Vane was returning as their supervisor . I doubt very much they felt comfortable enough to be truly forthcoming.

  • DoubleTap August 23, 2013 at 9:52 am

    It is a sad day when defenseless animals are used for political gain. However, it is really the local city Administration that is ultimately responsible for the manner in which all and any of its departments are managed. I find it incredible and unbelievable that the top administrators of the City of St. George were not aware of the condition of the animal shelter. The Mayor of St. George, as the top leader of the City is just as responsible as the Chief of Police is responsible for any of his Officers. So who exactly is/was Mr. Vanes direct supervisor? That has not been disclosed. Although we do know that the animal shelter falls under the Police Dept….who is/was Dave Vanes direct supervisor? That person should also bear some accountability/responsibility for the mismanagement of the animal shelter as well.
    It is so pathetic that the leadership of the City of St. George can somehow magically “find” funds for the purchase and installation of a $300,000.00 carousel, over $900,000.000 for the purchase of a vintage “theater” and, of course, its added costs for renovation, and added street “beautification” throughout the city; and these are but a small example of the “mismanagement” of tax dollars. BUT…cannot find funding for the proper management of an animal shelter. Really show the priorities of the leadership of the City. (from the Mayor on down to the council members). What is truly needed in this city, is new leadership[ all the way around. Sadly, the same 12-15% of registered voters will continue to vote these so called distinguished, caring, community minded people back to positions of leadership again. To all those who have complained about this issue regarding the animal shelter and all the other wasting of tax dollars….get out and vote in new leadership. It is the only way things in this city will change.

  • Lisa August 23, 2013 at 11:11 am

    If the Mayor and others – who think the shelter administration is so lacking in fault – are so confident in their position, they should allow an investigation that is unbiased. I do not think that an investigation by the police fills that description. If, as asserted, the administrator was limited by funding, he should have pushed for additional funding to do the job that was needed for the animals under his charge. It is sad that money is spent on matters much less important than treating animals appropriately. I’m not a person who is such an animal lover that I think it’s appropriate to take them in stores as is so often seen now a days, but treating them humanely is a must. If that was not done, it needs to be investigated completely and fairly. It just appears that by having the police do it the mayor and others are hiding behind them.

    • MShabazz September 3, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      I agree. An outside investigation needs to happen. The only thing is who? I think it’s time for the citizen’s to come together and hold our local leaders accountable.

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