An investigation into the conditions of the parish animal shelter discovered that last week animal crowding had reached dangerous levels, according to a report compiled by Animal Control Director Hilton Cole.
But the report, sent to the Metro Council on Monday afternoon, said the problems “appear to have been resolved at this time.”
The investigation was initiated Aug. 23, after Cole had received several complaints about conditions in the shelter stemming from its Aug. 1 management takeover by the Companion Animal Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to becoming a no-kill shelter.
An inventory of animals Wednesday found that 752 animals — 535 dogs and 217 cats — were on site.
Last week, Companion Animal Alliance Director Laura Hinze said there are only 325 animal cages at the Progress Road facility, plus 39 movable cages she brought in.
Hinze estimated Friday there were about 500 animals in total at the animal shelter.
Hinze said Monday she had not seen the investigation results yet, so she could not comment.
The report compiled individual accounts from five investigators chosen to participate: a veterinarian, a city police officer in the canine division, a member of Capital Area Animal Welfare Society, and two Animal Control enforcement officers.
Police Lt. Robert P. Glaser said he saw one 4-by-6-foot pen with eight dogs in it, and others with between two and six dogs.
The pens, Cole said last week, generally shouldn’t have more than three dogs in them, but Hinze has argued that it depends on the dog size.
Glaser said many dogs had no water, and found that the overcrowding of animals resulted in animal waste all over the pens. He said some of the dogs were eating the animal waste or lying in it.
“I was in shock of the conditions I was observing,” Glaser wrote in his individual report, adding later that “THIS HAS TO STOP.”
Glaser said if he learned a dog handler under his command was kenneling dogs under the same conditions, that individual would be relieved of duties.
Dr. Craig Alberty, a private practice veterinarian, said in his report that “this overcrowding poses an immediate health threat for the animals.”
He took issue with stray animals being held in the men’s bathroom.
“The men’s room seems to be a puppy isolation area,” Alberty wrote. “These were open cages stacked in a poorly ventilated area that was designed for a different purpose.”
Alberty also noted that the condition of some areas in the shelter, such as adoption areas and the vet clinic, were “very clean” and “above standard condition.”
He wrote that overcrowding needed to be addressed immediately, but also defended the work of the CAA.
“It is also important to realize that the task that CAA has is tremendous and that they need our support at this time and not interference and threats,” Alberty wrote. “To accomplish this will require all of us to realize that Laura Hinze seems more than qualified to meet these demands.”
In the report’s conclusion, Cole attributed the overcrowding to CAA’s “zeal to minimize euthanasia upon assumption of duties on Aug. 1 to the point that some of the animals were suffering in the overcrowded pens.”
He added that CAA failed to realize that “euthanasia is not the worst thing that can happen to an animal that is suffering or severely stressed.”
Cole also noted that CAA lacked written plans, policies and guidelines for euthanizing animals.
Pam Leavy, a member of the CAAWS board of directors, recommended in her report that the group re-examine euthanasia protocols, work with breed-specific rescue groups and stop accepting animals from out of parish.
She also encouraged the group to increase offsite adoptions and foster homes for the animals, which CAA officials say they intend to do.
But Leavy also called the staff kind and compassionate.
“They seem to be dedicated toward their jobs, and their only obstacle is the overwhelming number of animals compared to the number of kennel staff.”
CAA takes in about 35 dogs and cats a day, but has adopted out about 10 per day, Hinze said last week.
When the shelter was under parish control, animals were euthanized more frequently as a result of space constraints.
CAA took over the shelter from under the public umbrella of Animal Control and Rescue, in hopes of using a combined revenue stream of public and private funds to bolster the shelter operations and increase adoptions.
Last week CAA Board Chairwoman Christel Slaughter said the group became aware of its overcrowding more than a week ago, and began tweaking its policies and procedures to address the problems.
The CAA has expanded its euthanasia criteria four times since Aug. 1, she said Friday.
Cole said Monday afternoon that the report was intended to assist the CAA with its problems.
The report, he said, was given to the Metro Council but he did not give it to the CAA.
“The Metro Council has commissioned us to stay current with affairs up here,” he said. “We look forward to the CAA working through these highly expected problems.”