Wednesday, June 23, 2010

HSUS Recommendations

The Humane Society of the United States, HSUS, did an evaluation of the Denver Municipal Animal Shelter in June 2008. It’s 210 pages.
This is a compilation of the most egregious violations that have not been rectified as of June 2010. My comments appear in parenthesis.
The HSUS is not a regulatory agency, it doesn't have any power so these are recommendations.
This is the city shelter. That means you own it. It's up to you to see that it gets improved.

Please email the Mayor asking that he insist on at least the first item, that all dogs and cats get out of their cages twice a day for 10 to 20 minutes of exercise.

1) Provide all dogs two 10 to 20 minute exercise periods per day outside of their cages. Cats should be afforded time out of their cages to exercise and play. (Many dogs and cats do not get out even once a day. It is very rare that any animal gets out twice a day.)

2) Dogs are walked randomly by volunteers. Regardless of the number of empty cages, guillotine doors remained closed, allowing dogs access to only one side of their cage.

3) The Animals on Hold inventory showed many were overdue for status change, that is, they should have already been put up for adoption. (Languishing in the cages makes them more prone to illness, especially kennel cough).

4) Develop a shelter-wide program to encourage strong client service and marketing skills. It is best for an adoption program to be known for being friendly, helpful, supportive, and fair. (Management prevents volunteers from providing as good a service as they would like.)

5) The board’s concerns include; the poor reputation of the agency, poor attitudes of staff, lack of support from potential funders such as the Denver Animal Foundation, negative media coverage, lack of proactive marketing, lack of support for volunteers, and failure to hold staff accountable for policy and procedure violations.

6) The animal shelter must have enough staff to provide at least the basics and enrichment on a daily basis. DMAS has failed to keep up with the significant progress made in Colorado and the rest of the country.
(The shelter relies on volunteers to provide the “enrichment on a daily basis” yet the management ties volunteers’ hands with restrictive hours, delays in training new volunteers, and lack of cooperation to improve volunteer coordination.)

7) Volunteer training is inadequate and lacks structure. Volunteers request for a mentoring program were denied.

8) Meetings for volunteers are poorly attended. …Educational opportunities for volunteers were not offered; the volunteers expressed a desire for more consistent and advanced communication and training. Volunteers are performing the work of paid staff.
(Meetings have low attendance because the volunteers know that management is indifferent and they risk suspension and termination for promoting change.)

9) Matters that have been brought to the attention of the director have not been adequately addressed.

10) By making animals comfortable and keeping their minds occupied through light training and stimulating toys, shelters around the country are seeing positive changes in their mental health… The dogs take what they learn to their new homes. Stress reduction and behavior programs are increasing adoptions and reducing return rates.
(DMAS does not provide mental stimulation.)

11) One cat that was wearing identification had been euthanized five days prior to his status change date. A reason for the premature euthanasia was not documented.
(There are times when it’s not appropriate to put animals down. Volunteers that have offered to rescue those animals are often ignored.)

12) There is not a foster care program associated with the shelter.

13) Vans in the DMAS parking lot are left running unattended for approximately 30 minutes.

14) Finally, the agency had a creed; ―I will always ask what‘s right for the animal and do that. Every decision is the answer to that question. Not what is convenient for us, or the cheapest alternative, but what is RIGHT for the animal.
(This is not followed.)

15) A vote of no confidence in the director received approximately 50% of employees‘ signatures; volunteers also signed a petition to have the director removed. The manager of DEH addressed the employees‘ and volunteers‘ concern in a letter and met with several of them to discuss the ongoing issues at DMAS. There was a morale crisis at DMAS, reflective of ineffective leadership at the director level.

More information to follow. Stay posted and thanks for contacting the Mayor.

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