ST.GEORGE – On Wednesday, the St. George City Council held an open house session in which residents were welcomed to speak before the council, mayor, and other city officials about any issues they would like to see addressed. The pressing topic at the meeting was the future of the city animal shelter.
As reported on Saturday, city officials are currently investigating allegations that the management at the shelter had been neglecting and mistreating stray dogs and cats for years. While the findings of the investigation have yet to be released, shelter supervisor David Vane was placed on administrative leave over the weekend and city officials have confirmed that he will no longer be in charge at the shelter.
Wednesday’s open house council meeting took an introspective tone. Both attendees as well as city officials wondered how the conditions at the shelter could have been as poor as they were for so long without the city council or the mayor knowing about it.
“Somebody alluded to the fact that, how did we not know already,” Councilman Gil Almquist said. “Part of the changes that happen in a city are because citizens find something out on their own.”
Bringing important problems to the attention of the city council, such as the poor conditions at the animal shelter, is key to helping the council deal with problems as they arise, he said.
Lynn Burger, operational director of P.A.W.S. pet adoption shelter, said that she and other citizens should have told the council about the troubled municipal shelter much earlier. However, Burger asked why the shelter was never visited by the mayor and city council before the allegations of mistreatment and poor conditions became public. Council members routinely inspect city facilities throughout the year, yet the shelter had not been inspected by city officials in over 10 years, Burger said.
“I’d like to see that change,” she said.
One of the allegations under investigation is that those who knew about the mistreatment were intimidated into silence by Vane, the former director of the animal shelter. St. George resident Randy Fields told the council that Vane threatened to harm the animals if rescue workers came forward with what they knew. However, Fields said he believes that the current leadership at the police department can be trusted to act on complaints.
“Now we have a whole different environment,” Fields said. Fields has met with Police Chief Marlon Stratton, as well as Deputy Chief Richard Farnsworth and Captain Gordon McCracken, who directly oversees the animal shelter, and Fields assured those in attendance that the St. George Police Department takes the allegations very seriously. “I promise you that they care,” he said.
The leadership of the police force is honest, and that they are moving as fast as they can to investigate and address the allegations, Fields said.
Chief Stratton expressed personal regret and took full responsibility for the situation, admitting that mistakes were made in the past. “I understand where they are coming from and we haven’t been as receptive as we should have been,” he said.
The Police Department is listening now, Stratton said, and they are already implementing many of the ideas suggested by the rescue workers. “They understand a lot about the animals and they are helping us in that regard,” he said.
At the meeting, Mayor Dan McArthur announced policy changes in regards to the operation of the shelter. Among those changes, McArthur pledged that, when possible, animals will now be removed from their kennels before cleaning and that they will be allowed more time to exercise outside of their kennels. McArthur also said that the shelter will ensure the animals will be fed appropriate pet food, that beds will be installed in the dog kennels, and that euthanasia services will now be performed by licensed veterinarians.
These changes are expected to be adopted as a formal resolution in Thursday’s city council meeting; however, following the recent revelations about the animal shelter, many of the citizens in attendance have said that they would like to see the city council to adopt a permanent standard of humane animal treatment into the city code.
- City launches inquiry into allegations of abuse at St. George Animal Shelter
- Wednesday meeting for public discussion of animal shelter conditions
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