Animal Services In Chattanooga Is Broken - And Response (7)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Animal services in Chattanooga is broken.  Last Wednesday at the 75 / 24 split, I saw a boxer in the median that had been struck by a vehicle that had a severely damaged leg.  I immediately stopped, as did a couple others. My wife called McKamey to report the dog and have her picked up.  After many attempts to speak with someone directly, she ended up having to leave a message. 

Because we couldn’t get in touch with anyone, I loaded her up in my car and I took her to RIVER.  I could sign her over to be euthanized or take responsibility for her. I could not simply walk away from her if she could be saved and a forever home be found for her.  The initial cost for her to be stabilized until her leg could be amputated was $1,000, with amputation was $2,500. They called later that night and said something was wrong with her lungs, it would be another $1,000 at least.  My wife and I made the difficult decision to have her put down.  

As of Monday morning we never received a call back from McKamey. According to their website, they were open when my wife called.  We have called before about animals and have never been able to get through to anyone.   What is going on at McKamey?  Do they pick up animals or not?  Do they not have enough people to answer the phones?  What are our tax dollars paying for? If it hadn’t been for the kindness of strangers, she would have died cold, frightened, in pain, and alone in that median.  I believe our stray animals would be better served if our taxes helped to fund RIVER rather than McKamey.  

All of this could have been avoided McKamey had answered the phone.  Remember this call was placed during normal business hours on a weekday, so you know hurt animals are out of luck on the weekends or holidays.     

Too many missed opportunities are happening at McKamey and this definitely needs to be looked into by the McKamey Board and by the city.  

Mike Harmon 

* * *

Mr. Mike, I will be stopping by RIVER to pay a little bit of your bill. Won't be $3,500 worth, but I know every little bit helps. 

As an animal lover, I can say I appreciate your efforts to offer a creature of lesser means a chance to life. Sadly, the end was near.  

Hopefully, the owners will have some completion to the loss of their beloved pet. 

Kudos, Mr. and Mrs. Harmon.  May God's blessings be upon you.

Rene A. Wood

* * * 

I had to respond to Mr. Harmon’s remarks regarding McKamey.  Unfortunately, I have to agree with his comments.  On three separate occasions I have contacted McKamey – all during regular business hours – had to leave a message and never had anyone returned my calls.  Like Mr. Harmon and his wife, I took the stray/injured animal to a local vet office and incurred the expense of treatment.  Fortunately, all the animals involved in my ‘rescues’ survived and have either found a forever home or are in the process of being adopted. 

What is the purpose of having a government-funded animal shelter if you can’t get them to return phone calls?  People aren’t calling their facility to just chit-chat – there is a reason for them placing a call to McKamey and then for McKamey to totally ignore the messages is not only rude, but highly unprofessional. 

Mr. Harmon has a great idea – let the city stop funding to McKamey and provide the money to RIVER.  From personal experience and hearing from others, RIVER has been a God-send to Hamilton County and has saved the lives of many defenseless, helpless animals. 

Finally, if McKamey wants to survive in this area they need to seriously consider becoming a no-kill shelter.  Understandably, there are times when an animal must be euthanized due to health reasons but simply because they are not adopted within a certain timeframe is not acceptable any longer.  Euthanasia should only be a last resort for severely sick/injured animals, not because ‘their time has ran out.’ 

Penny Walker 

* * *

Animal Services in the city of Chattanooga has been broken since the day McKamey’s opened its door. The issues are: 

1.       It was mismanaged from the beginning. Both directors were lacking in administrative skills. 

2.       The center layout is not conducive to viewing the dogs. A volunteer or staff member has to take you around. 

3.       There is a shortage of volunteers and staff members, so the wait time is lengthy. 

4.       Their screening of potential adopters is far too extensive and time consuming. 

5.       The checkout procedure for adopting your pet is far too time consuming. 

6.       You cannot adopt pets off site (PetSmart). The potential adopter has to go to the center to adopt the pet. 

7.       The staff does not answer the phone promptly. 

8.       The staff does not return phone calls in a reasonable period of time, even if it is an emergency. 

9.       You must have an appointment to surrender an animal. You cannot just stop by. 

10.   The general attitude of staff and volunteers is that they are doing you a favor allowing you in their center instead of “How can I help you find the pet of your dreams?” 

11.   The vision is lost as it is supposed to be about the animals. 

Anyone who has had to deal with McKamey’s knows how bad the service they render is.  It is best to adopt, don’t shop, so my advice is if you are looking to adopt a pet, it is better to go to Humane Educational Society or Pet Placement Center or East Ridge Animal Services. 

If you have an emergency like an animal hit by a car and it is in the city, and you don’t have the funds to go to the emergency vet, The River, and the McKamey’s staff is not answering the phone,  drive the animal to McKamey’s and see if they will help you face to face. Maybe they will surprise the city of Chattanooga residents and actually do their job. One can hope. 

Suzanne E. Keith 

* * *

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I learned something very disturbing that was going on in our neighborhood involving stray animals.  Over the past couple of years, we have seen an onslaught of stray cats roaming the Murray Hills subdivision bordering the Chickamauga dam and adjoining areas.  I had always assumed it was careless animal owners in the area not properly caring for and fixing their animals.   

We had made numerous calls to McKamey to see what steps needed to be made to help alleviate the problem and help with the growing nuisance but always ended back at square one.  Then last week I ran into what appeared to be a mother and daughter looking for their housecat that had gotten out of the house.   I asked what the cat looked like and what area they were from and they informed me the Tyner area, which surprised me as to why they looking so far away from their residence.  They informed me they had visited McKamey to try and locate their cat and were informed to look around the Chickamauga Dam recreation area as that is where over crowded strays were released by the shelter.   

I thought I had misinterpreted her, but she then confirmed what I thought I had heard.  Needless to say I was speechless.  I have since followed up with calls to Mckamey to get confirmation of this,  but am still getting the same dance.   

If this is true however, I have no words for my disgust.  It would however explain the growing feline problem along with the almost daily coyote sightings roaming the neighborhood from yard to yard.  I guess in a sense they are being provided an easily attainable and abundant food source so they have no reason to return to the wild to search elsewhere. This has become a scary problem within itself for parents of young children and pet owners alike.  

As for your frustration Mr. Harmon,  I  guess we are right there with you.  We are simply trying to get to the root cause of a growing problem.  Unfortunately, I think we may have found it.  

Chris Morgan 

* * *

It is disturbing to read all of the letters regarding emergency animal services.  Obviously something is wrong with the system.  I believe it is time for the city to start monitoring the calls to emergency animal services or, even better, give these services back to the Humane Society.   

I realize we have a huge homeless population of animals in the city; however, there is no excuse for letting injured animals suffer.  Something needs to be done.  McKamey's track record needs to improve. 

I believe there is a board meeting of McKamey this Wednesday.  Perhaps as concerned citizens we need to attend. 

Vicki Hill

* * * 

I don't pretend to understand the political riff between McKamey and the Humane Society, nor do I care to choose sides.  Both have taken on a difficult charge in a region where people can be downright ignorant or just plain mean and stupid when comes to animals.

I cite the recent poisoning of stray dogs in the Dallas Bay area, the work of a cruel and lazy mind, as an example attitudes that those of us concerned with animal welfare must deal with. 

However, I for the life of me do not understand why when citizens of the city of Chattanooga make an afters hours call to McKamey we get someone on call in Cleveland who may or may not come out. I don't understand why McKamey does not have night staff which means if someone brings you an unweaned kitten, which needs to be hand fed formula every 3 to 5 hours, you can't turn the animal in with good conscience. 

This is not Bugtussle from the Beverly Hillbillies. This is an up and coming mid-size city. This issue needs to be addressed. 

One more thing, all parties in the animal welfare community of this area; McKamey, HES, independent shelters, and us do gooders that help them need to come together and do something about the rampant dog fighting problem we have in metro Chattanooga. I proposed a website to track reports of the roving fights and their dumping grounds. Someplace people can upload pictures of vehicles of people they think are involved in this. 

We need to shine a light on this horrible activity and drive it away. 

R.W. Young

* * *  

Although we don't normally answer unflattering articles in the news since it just tends to keep it going, I feel I must answer some of the misinformation that is currently circulating on this website.  The original email regarding an injured dog on the interstate is a case in point.   

Last Wednesday beginning at 2:18 McKamey received 13 calls regarding an injured animal on the 24/75 split.  Three minutes after the first call was received we dispatched an animal officer to the scene.  By the time he arrived Mr. Harmon had already removed the dog and taken her to RIVER.  Our officer spent 35 minutes searching for the animal and could not find it.  What Mr. Harmon could not know was that the dog's owner was also searching for her and had contacted McKamey in his search, a file was opened on his lost dog at the time.  

If the dog had been picked up by our officer we would have been able to reunite her with her owner and the situation would not have escalated to the point Mr. Harmon felt obligated to spend money on her to have her cared for at RIVER.  Our system worked and Mr. Harmon's frustration with our phone system did not have any bearing on the outcome of the dog's injuries.   

We received 21 calls in 21 minutes during the time in question and it is impossible to return calls for the thousands of messages that are left for us each month.  We do not ignore them, we act on them but returning the calls to give people the status of their call isn't possible.   

To Ms. Walker's suggestion, RIVER is not part of the animal services in Chattanooga, they are a private vet clinic.  We work with them everyday and they have a wonderful staff but they are vets, not animal services.  All animal lovers are grateful for RIVER, if you've ever had a sick animal in the middle of the night you know what I mean but they are not part of animal control for this city.  No-kill is a term that doesn't help anyone.  No open admission shelter (which is McKamey) will ever be totally no-kill.  The dog in question is a prime example.  If that dog had been brought to McKamey instead of RIVER its injuries were too severe for it to survive.  After the owner was contacted he would have made the same decision and the dog would have been humanely euthanized by our staff who must deal with this horrible situation everyday.  We have never put an animal down because we didn't have room to keep it or 'their time has run out'.  We do not have a time limit and our staff works hard everyday to find forever homes for the over 8,000 animals we see each year.  Every adoptable animal we have will be adopted, there is no time limit. 

Ms. Keith's letter, it is so full of misinformation I can't even begin to correct it. 

To Chris Morgan's email.  McKamey has a Trap-Neuter-Return grant in place that we have had for some time.  You can check out a humane trap from the Center, trap any stray cat in your neighborhood and that cat will be neutered and returned to the area for free.  This is a nationally recognized method of controlling feral cat colonies and we are huge advocates for it.  In the five years we have been open the feral cat colonies have shrunk to the point we no longer have huge numbers of kittens brought in to us each spring, the program works.   We do not and have never released stray cats at the dam or anyplace else. Feral cats are released to the area they are trapped, otherwise another colony will simply grow up to take its place.  I'm not sure what you think is a dance you get from McKamey but every staff person and volunteer there understands TNR and can explain it to you and it does not involve dumping animals anywhere. 

The reason McKamey exists is because the city demanded better animal care than it was getting five years ago.  McKamey has reduced the city's euthanasia rate from 81 percent when we opened to the point that we now have a live release rate of over 70 percent year-to-date.  That's a huge turnaround in five years.  When you call McKamey you do not get someone in Cleveland, you get a staff person who will do something about your call.  Leaving a message is the only way we can handle the thousands of calls we receive each month.  We do not ignore them, we act on them and we have a caring and dedicated staff that works hard every single day with the hundreds of volunteers we have to make a better life for the stray and injured animals in our community.  It is a huge disservice to them to think they are not competent, caring individuals who are doing an amazing job in a truly demanding situation.  As the chair of the board I can tell you that we could not be more proud of them and the work they do and we understand the demands made on them and the grace they use to answer them. 

Ann S. Ball
Board Chair, Animal Care Trust

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