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.
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