City Council passes resolution to improve animal shelter

The St. George City Council, St. George, Utah, Jan. 3, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News.

ST. GEORGE – The St. George City Council passed a resolution pledging to improve policy and procedure at the St. George Animal Shelter. The resolution comes in the wake of allegations ranging from poor living conditions to animal cruelty taking place at the shelter. Some of the allegations were that dogs were forced to remain in their kennels while they were sprayed for cleaning, and that cats and dogs were put down inhumanely.

We wanted to show we are resolved to do this,” Mayor Dan McArthur said of the resolution.

The resolution was read during a city council public forum Wednesday night, and reread during the regular Thursday meeting. In the resolution, the city and St. George Police Department pledge to:

  • Assign a police sergeant to oversee operation of the animal shelter, who will be under the supervision of a police captain. The former shelter supervisor, Dave Vane, has been placed on paid administrative leave. St. George Police Sgt. Ivor Fuller now oversees the shelter.
  • Complete the current investigation into shelter operations.
  • Evaluate and implement upgrades to the shelter where possible.
  • Remove dogs from kennels during kennel cleaning, as well as provide proper bedding in all kennels.
  • Have owner-requested euthanasia of pets be done through suggested veterinarians and not at the shelter. Also, when the shelter reaches capacity, the city will request assistance for pet adoption or foster care from interested parties or groups.

The resolution can be read in detail here.

The resolution was passed unanimously and was met with applause from those in the council chamber gallery.

Though the resolution brings a promised change to how the animal shelter will be operated, it has yet to be officially made a “no-kill” shelter. Still, for the people who have sought to change city policy concerning the shelter, the resolution is a step in the right direction.

It’s a start,” Kris Neal said. Neal runs the city’s feral cat Trap-Neuter-Release program. “We had a beginning, now we’re going to work toward a middle and an end – but we have a start.”

She said she has been working to get the shelter to this point for 15 years and is happy to see the city pass the resolution. There are gaps in the resolution, she said, but those gaps will be filled in as the city, volunteers, and associated groups move forward to improve the animal shelter overall.

The next step now is making improvements to the shelter, Neal said.

All big journeys start with a first step – this is a first step,” Randy Fields said outside of the council chamber. “This is a terrific first step.”

But the city needs to continue to investigate and improve what he called the “three-Ps” surrounding the animal shelter, Fields said: people, procedure, and policy.

This is not the end, this is only the beginning,” Fields said.

Tara Dunn, a current St. George City council candidate, was also at the meeting and was pleased to see something done with the shelter. “I’m really happy with the swift action that (the city council) took,” she said.

Dunn was one of the people who approached Councilman Jon Pike with concerns about the St. George Animal Shelter and got the allegations taken seriously.

While it’s nice to have a resolution, Dunn said she wants to see a city ordinance officially pronouncing the shelter a no-kill facility.

Additionally, she said the current investigation needs to go beyond the animal shelter. People with concerns about the shelter rarely said anything because they felt “intimidated and threatened.” 

I think that’s a culture problem in the city management, and needs to be addressed,” Dunn said.

Other business

  • The council voted to approve a $193,000 bid for the installation of a light signal at 250 North Red Cliffs Drive.
  • The council passed an amendment to an incentive agreement with Berry Manufacturing for $26,000, allowing for the company to expand. The expansion is stated to create 15 new jobs.
  • The council also approved a $73,000 bid for roundabout designs at the intersections of 400 East Tabernacle and 600 West Tonaquint Drive.

Related posts

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Twitter: @MoriKessler

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

The St. George City Council, St. George, Utah, Jan. 3, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News.
The St. George City Council, St. George, Utah, Jan. 3, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News.

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  • Craig August 2, 2013 at 6:03 am

    While I’m glad that everyone involved appear to be moving in the right direction, I also find it ridiculous that we need a resolution to do the right thing.

  • DoubleTap August 2, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Dave Vane should NOT ONLY be placed on “administrative leave”, he should be TERMINATED!! As supervisor, ultimately it is his responsibility and he allowed the shelter to be run the way it was. I understand that he would tell citizens that if they wanted to turn in a dog, the citizen had to pay him a $75.00 fee for him to allow the dog be accepted at the shelter. Not only is this unprofessional, it seems like quasi-extortion. Mr. Vane needs to be thoroughly investigated and reprimanded including termination. The City of St. George does not need this type of individual in its employ, representing the City.
    The City should move full-steam ahead and make the shelter a no-kill shelter. Yes….what the city officials have done to this point is a good beginning, but need to take it further and consider turning the shelter over to the animal advocates, who obviously have a better track track record of working to get animals adopted. They City should also INCREASE the shelters budget if they want to maintain control of it.

    • Alvin August 2, 2013 at 11:14 am

      Mr Vane does not have all the authority you are insinuating. He is a regular employee like all the other obtaining marching orders from those much higher up the chain than him. To assume that this is all his fault is absurd. The supervisors with much more authority than him have dropped the ball on this one. And of course, someone has to be removed so it appears that those in charge have resolved the issue.

      • DoubleTap August 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm

        In your view then, those higher up need to be held accountable as well. The “supervisor with much more authority” ultimately responsible for all City departments would be Mayor Dan McArthur. Maybe he should consider “removing” himself from the Mayor’s campaign. Wait…he would NEVER do that. It’s called “selective” responsibility.

  • Cherrie August 2, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I just hope that now when a person calls to complain about neighbors having more then legal number of dogs, not cleaning up the dog poop yards, and dog pack attacks on their own animals it doesn’t take 5 or more times to have the problems solved. I have called 5 times to have the animal control come out for these problems. They have always been very speedy in coming out, but have not cited the people, just told them to clean up the mess. There needs to be a limit on warnings and a citation given.
    Dave has always been most courteous and responded very quickly to problems that I have approached him with, but I think his hands have been tied as to what can be done with problems that have a raisen. I think there is more to this then meets the eye..Please St. George..overhaul all the rules and stop allowing people (owners) of these pets to stop abusing, keeping animals in filthy environments and have some consideration to neighbors. Give us some (neighbors} non pet owners some rights also…

  • Deke August 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Dave Vane was only placed on administrative leave because after he’d been officially warned to change some of the worst shelter abuses immediately, the very next day one of his workers was observed still spraying out cages with animals while the animals were still inside them. if he couldn’t impress the shelter workers about the seriousness of these abuses and new directives from the city council, he was ineffective at best. in no way should he ever get his job back. the worker who sprayed should also be on “administrative leave” but could be re-trained. the ones who performed the “heart stick” euthanasia are irredeemable, in my opinion, and should never be allowed to work with animals again.

  • Joeak49 August 2, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    The problem with the St. George Animal Control Shelter is not with the employees who do the day to day work. The problem is with the City Council, the Mayor, the St. George Police Department and the Judicial system. The Mayor has known about the issues with the shelter for many years. Not surprising, it took an election cycle to bring the issues to the forefront. The City Council budgeted $2000 for the entire year for maintenance at the shelter. Anyone who owns a home knows that $2000 a year doesn’t go very far. The St. George Police Department sees animal control issues as a very low priority. The animal control Officers write citations for animal abuse, having more than two dogs at one residence and many more other violations but the judicial system lets those cited off with little or no punishment.
    Now, specifically addressing the new resolutions:

    “Have owner-requested euthanasia done at local vet offices”…The cost at local vets can be over $300 or more when you consider disposing of the body…The cost at the shelter was $25. Those who can not afford the $300 will use other methods to get rid of their dogs…Shooting it in the desert, just turn it lose in the desert, throw it in the Virgin river…Do I need to say more as I am sure you get the idea. You are causing a bigger problem than you are solving.

    “the city will request assistance for pet adoption or foster care from interested parties or groups”…I know for a fact that the St. George Animal Control Shelter has requested help from various “Animal Rights Groups” for injured animals, animals difficult to adopt, etc. and have been turned down more times that they have taken the animals.

    “provide proper bedding in all kennels”…The shelter use to provide bedding but the dogs usually tear the bedding to shreds. It then causes a problem with the drains and with dogs choking on the bedding. Also again back to the $2000 annual budget. That money would be used up pretty quick replacing the destroyed bedding.

    “Dave Vane, has been placed on paid administrative leave”…Mr Vane is a hard working employee who is doing the best with what resource’s the city has provided. He is being made the “Fall Guy” in this situation. Politicians are good at finding the fall guy but not so good at addressing the real issue, themselves.

    Not part of the “resolutions” but I thought this should be addressed…”city ordinance officially pronouncing the shelter a no-kill facility”…A no-kill shelter is a total falsehood and has become a nice saying but the reality is far different. The animals that are left at a “No-Kill” shelter are eventually passed around until they end up at a shelter that allows euthanasia as the last resort.

    I do agree that the resolution is a start but the real problem is our own culture and attitudes towards animals. People need to be educated that acquiring a pet is a huge responsibility not to done on a whim or because it “would be cool to have a pet”.

    One more point. It is interesting that in this article the city council approved almost $300,000 in spending for a traffic light, a study for a roundabout and money to help a private business to expand. I wonder if any of these expenditures are going to friends of the Mayor and City Council. How much money will be eventually spent on our four legged friends?

  • San August 4, 2013 at 1:45 am

    I think that Joeak49 might have an agenda, and since I do as well, here we go:

    Most shelters in the area would define themselves as ‘underfunded’ and have gotten creative in procuring what they need to make ends meet. I work with enough animal rights advocates to know (first hand) that offers for free beds and other necessities have been refused at the St. George Shelter.

    Medical care is always a concern when sick and wounded animals are brought in. Is there a vet in the area who can say that they’ve turned down pro-bono services for a sheltered animal, even if that only extends to penicillin and an initial check? No, I don’t think so. I know of at least three groups who have picked up sick/injured dogs and then transported to Best Friends or local vets, only to have to return them to poor conditions at SG Shelter.

    I agree with others, that massive change needs to happen at that shelter. Massive change means structural changes to the building that allow for better living conditions in the dog unit. The cat unit is one of the best in the county, at least environmentally. Care oversight needs to be in place for a probationary period, if the staff is to remain. Oversight isn’t a monthly walkthrough by a neighboring or allied agency, it’s independent and unbiased…maybe Best Friends could be asked to offer guidance and support. I doubt they’d say no.

    As far as the proclamation for a no-kill shelter…I’ve never heard on St. George passing an animal to a no kill shelter. I have heard of them passing to rescues (thank God) who take on the long-term obligations and medical care for initially unadoptable animals. Why wasn’t the practice mentioned in the aforementioned rant?

    What was happening at SG Shelter was not euthanasia. The tone of your post suggests more sympathy for the staff, and Dave Vane, than the animals involved. If you want your paycheck then do your job. If you want the public’s sympathy for your pathetic behavior, then be humbled and ask for help…stop whining.

  • Billy August 4, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Joeak49: Your 2000 budgeted for 1 year did not seem right to me, so I went to the city budget. (a link to it was provided here on St George News) I am not an expert, but it looks to me the 2000 you speak of was requested for “improvements” to the shelter, 11.000 was budgeted in materials and supplies. (that amount was requested, not cut down by the city) and the rest falls under the police department budget.

  • JoeAk49 August 4, 2013 at 10:18 am

    San…Maybe you should actually read my post and not surmise what I am saying. I care about the animals and the people who work there more than you will ever know. The employees at the shelter do the best with what resources are available. I never said that St. George passes on animals to a no-kill shelter. I said a no-kill shelter is a fantasy. I also stated that when when the St George facility contacts a local animal rights group, like Best Friends, they are turned down more times than the animal is accepted. As far as me whining and ranting the only whining and ranting I see is in your post. I am just stating the facts. Also, the tone I set is your own opinion which appears to be bias towards the animal rights groups (An easy position to take by the way). They are not the answer to this issue. They are not as innocent as you portray. They need funding and they will do anything to drum up passion for that funding effort. Don’t get me wrong as there is good in what they do but they too are constrained by funding.The answer to this issue, as I stated, is education to the public as to the responsibility to our 4 legged friends The part in your post “If you want your paycheck then do your job. If you want the public’s sympathy for your pathetic behavior, then be humbled and ask for help…stop whining.” I don’t understand who you are referring to. I don’t work at the shelter. I have gone to the shelter and walked the dogs and I have adopted an animal that needed serious medical attention and paid for all the the vet services out of my own pocket and then found a good long term home for the animal. If you are referring to the shelter workers then you words are misguided. They have asked for help and more funding countless times only to be turned down again and again. They do a very good job with the resources that are provided. They are caring and loving people who are genuinely concerned about the animal entrusted with their care. As you stated, their cat facility is one of the best around. The dog kennels and the facility in generally does need updating so, if all this causes that to happen I am all for it as it appears so are you. So you see we are not that far apart on what we both ultimately want for the animals and the people involved.

  • JoeAk49 August 4, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Billy…Thanks for the clarification. My point was basically the shelter has been under funded for years and hopefully with this issue coming to the forefront maybe some more funding will come their way. I think that is what everyone wants.

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