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A tale of one city shelter and seven of its deadly sins

Posted Nov 09 2008 10:45pm

I know a shelter…no names named…that desperately needs a complete makeover. We’re talking way beyond Ugly Betty here.

Said shelter has lots of local claims to fame. Here are seven of its deadly sins…

1-It’s one of the biggest shelters in one of the largest, urban cities on the eastern seaboard.

2-It euthanizes 120,000 stray and abandoned pets every year.

3-It has two receptionists handling 2,800 calls a day—to the tune of hundreds of similarly abandoned calls every day.

4-It boasts a grand total of one personnel member to handle all media, education and special events…along with all its volunteer coordination activities. (And, by the way, the city wants to cut this job.)

5-It doesn’t have anywhere near enough vets to handle all the low-cost spays and neuters it could be doing.

6-Its leaders and staff are frustrated, disgruntled, demoralized…etc.

7-The community it serves is frustrated, disgruntled, demoralized…etc.

I visited this shelter last week. I walked away feeling frustrated, disgruntled, demoralized…etc.

And who wouldn’t?

Offer a dying shelter a dwindling pittance to work with then burden it with extremes of bureaucratic oversight? You deserve the mess you’ve conjured: an ineffectual municipal facility with an unhappy citizenry and hundreds of thousands of dead animals.

Congratulations!

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see what’s happening here. But the area’s commissioners (largely responsible for the mess from what I can see) could apparently care less.

Animals in this city aren’t getting any satisfaction. They’re not getting any relief from the abandonment, sickening housing, lack of human education and inaccessible sterilization services that plague them.

Meanwhile, owners of well cared for pets, for their role in licensing their pets and financing the lion’s share of this facility’s operating costs, get treated to a bureaucratic nightmare right out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

The licensing renewal system is so fraught with glitches that citations (hefty, two hundred dollar-plus fines in some cases) are often erroneously generated for owners who maintain perfect compliance…year after year, even after the “bug” has been supposedly exterminated from their licensing paperwork. (By the way, you must visit the facility in person to resolve these disputes.)

***

Last Friday, I visited this shelter to meet with its director. I had two agenda items:

1-Make licensing a fair and feasible reality for my compliant clients.

2-Find out why my paperwork for applying to work as a part-time, spay and neuter speed-demon had not been processed (I applied back in April).

I got only as far as point number one. After I received a detailed explanation as to why the licensing and citation database doesn’t work like it should, the answer to the second seemed obvious:

When a computer system is so badly broken it can’t even crunch the numbers an old IBM laptop could’ve whipped through in the ‘80’s, there’s no mistaking the damage that must underlie everything else.
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