Inga L. Fricke, the director of the McKamey Animal Center, said a number of improvements have been made since questions were raised recently about conditions at the city facility and employee turnover.
She said more upgrades are on the way.
Here is the letter from Ms. Fricke:
McKamey Animal Center is working diligently each day to embody best practices in animal welfare. In our continuous effort to provide humane care and treatment, we have faced longstanding challenges including failing infrastructure and staffing turnover.
We have also faced rare but serious circumstances in recent months involving the care of our animals. On behalf of the McKamey Animal Center team, we are committed to addressing every concern related to our organization and regaining the public’s trust in our abilities. We have taken this time to reflect and evaluate every aspect of MAC to ensure each animal currently in our care and future animals in our care will receive the treatment and attention they deserve. It’s our promise to MAC staff, volunteers, supporters, community members, and most importantly, the animals in our care.
We have taken the following initial steps to reach this goal:
We have created a new Director of Animal Care position to oversee all of our intake, care and placement practices, and have hired a certified animal welfare expert to fill that role.
We are designating funds to make immediate infrastructure improvements like repairing and replacing our fencing and purchasing a new industrial washer and dryer.
We have engaged the National Municipal & Shelter Support Team at Best Friends Animal Society to provide an independent and thorough review of all our policies and procedures. This organization will ensure we are employing the most modern and humane animal control practices. A technical animal handling training session led by Best Friends Animal Society has already taken place this week and their team will work directly with our animal services department onsite to review policies and ride along with each officer to assess and enhance their skills.
We are moving forward with plans to hire a credentialed behaviorist to assure the emotional and behavioral well-being of every animal in our care.
We are committed to becoming a fully Fear Free Certified facility by the end of 2021. This program teaches staff to apply key strategies and techniques to reduce the negative emotional states that are commonly experienced by shelter and rescue animals including fear, anxiety, stress and frustration. All staff will undergo training to become certified in this program.
In our effort to be fully transparent regarding recent allegations, I would also like to address the following items, our correlating policies and the steps we are taking to address any issues within them.
While we euthanize in very specific situations of irredeemable suffering or if an animal has been deemed too aggressive by our care team to safely place in homes, we do not euthanize based on time or space limitations. Unfortunately, the dog in this case had displayed aggression on multiple occasions and was deemed unsafe for adoption. The use of a catch pole, used to ensure human safety when handling an aggressive or potentially aggressive dog, was deemed necessary on this occasion. While other witnesses who observed the handling of this situation did not report improper or inhumane handling, we are adopting a new policy using less invasive measures as we move toward becoming a Fear Free sheltering facility. In addition, the euthanasia process is not easy on any member of a shelter. We will uphold the dignity of all animals in their final moments through ongoing compassion fatigue training and the addition of a trained behaviorist to our team.
Animal Left In Truck
An animal was left unattended for less than eight hours overnight and found unharmed the next morning, followed by an immediate assessment by our veterinarian. While certainly unacceptable, this is a stand-alone incident that was addressed that morning. New measures were put in place that day to ensure such an incident will never happen again.
Our facility, particularly our fencing infrastructure, has been deteriorating for some time. Our primary use of funds is used to provide care and treatment of our animals, leaving little available for major improvements around the shelter. Unfortunately, a fight ensued between two dogs on opposite sides of a standard chain link fence, contributing to the death of one medically compromised animal. We have already taken steps to address this serious issue and prevent incidents in the future by securing funds for infrastructure improvements this summer.
Since joining MAC in October 2020, I’ve been dedicated to ensuring we’re efficiently staffed to provide high quality care. We currently have 10 individuals on our animal care team as part of 55 full time staff who all play a role in ensuring that the animals are well cared for each and every day. We are actively recruiting for multiple additional animal care specialists and other positions.
MAC, like many organizations across the country, was deeply impacted by the pandemic. In our effort to reduce face-to-face interaction for human safety, we were forced to limit our onsite staff, volunteers and visitors for several months. However, our full staff can now join us in-person and our volunteers are starting to come onsite as more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In the instance of the missing dog involved in a stolen vehicle case, MAC was first notified at 2:19 p.m. and arrived onsite at 2:47 p.m., when our officer sadly found her deceased. Without a collar or microchip identification, were unable to accurately identify her onsite and followed necessary protocol for removal. We have no record of earlier calls to our organization.
While we cannot undo the infrequent, but upsetting circumstances that brought us to this point, our priority is providing the best possible care to our animals now and in the future. I look forward to sharing an update on our onsite training and policy review with Best Friends Animal Society and the completion of infrastructure and staffing updates in the coming weeks.
Inga L Fricke
Inga Fricke, MAC Executive Director