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Volunteers complained that they stopped getting a listing of dogs to be euthanized.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
A group of animal activists voiced concerns Tuesday and Wednesday, claiming that the transition of power from the local SPCA to a newly formed regional pound has taken too long and created unnecessary side effects.
Nearly a dozen people — many of them volunteers with the two organizations — complained to the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday evening. Among their concerns, they listed the rate at which dogs have been euthanized, hostility toward volunteers, and the effectiveness of David Flagler, who only earlier this month assumed the role of director for the Regional Center for Animal Control and Protection.
Responding to critics, Flagler on Wednesday said that if the volunteers expected him to walk through the door and create miracles instantaneously, they were wrong . He added that his job is focused on overseeing and completing a successful transfer of operations by July 1.
“I think their expectations were that the new guy would come onto the scene and all the sudden euthanasia would stop, or they would see some major change in the operation of this shelter,” he said. “People are looking at all the problems they perceive of this shelter and many of those problems are imagined.”
The live-release rate for dogs at the shelter is above 90 percent — an improvement from years past, records show.
In November 2012, the SPCA and the four communities the pound serves — Roanoke, Roanoke County, Vinton and Botetourt — agreed to separate operations of their conjoined centers on Baldwin Avenue in northeast Roanoke.
The decision followed public criticism about euthanasia rates at the pound and questions about the two groups’ finances. A financial audit released earlier this year stated the separation made sense, but there was no misappropriation of funds.
Lisa O’Neill , the director of Angels of Assisi Clinic in Roanoke, said concern among volunteers sparked when the SPCA stopped sending volunteers a listing of the dogs selected to be euthanized. The common practice up until then had been to rush and find a home for those animals. After the lists stopped coming, several dogs were killed without notice.
Some of the volunteers attended a Wednesday board meeting held by the RCACP. They brought with them many of the complaints voiced the night before. At the top of their agenda: figuring out what happened to the list.
Denise Hayes , the new SPCA chief executive officer, said the topic had come after she had been brought on as a leader at the organization.
“We were looking at different types of policies,” Hayes said. “There were some concerns as to how that list has been used.”
Andrea Trent , the assistant director of finance for Roanoke city, attempted to ease tension at the meeting, assuring the volunteers of the intent of the SPCA employees.
“I do think the staff is making every effort — ” she said, before they interrupted.
The chorus of dissent brought the room to silence. Then Carrie French, a volunteer, spoke directly to Hayes.
“I have a hard time understanding the nefarious purpose you think we’re using the list for,” she said.
“We will go back and re visit the issue,” Hayes replied.
When approached after the meeting, Hayes clarified that the list of animals scheduled to be euthanized had not been used improperly, but that the policy came under review to evaluate whether there was risk of it being misused in the future.
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