Animal control officer on paid leave after allegations of animal abuse at shelter

Posted at 6:22 PM, Jul 30, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-31 23:43:31-04

ST. GEORGE – An internal investigation is underway after allegations of abuse surfaced surrounding the St. George Animal Shelter, and on Wednesday the animal control officer in charge of that shelter was placed on administrative leave.

Dave Vane was put on paid leave Wednesday, and the accusations against the shelter will be addressed Thursday night at the regular meeting of the St. George City Council.

Animal advocates said the alleged abuse goes back several years and previous complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Things came to a head last week when advocates organized a rally at a city council work session.

“It’s been going on for quite a while,” said Lynn Burger, operational director for P.A.W.S, a local animal rescue group. “There are some obvious things to the public, as far as the kennels are very small, they’re cement, there’s no bedding. We’ve asked to have beds or blankets put in and they refuse to do that.”

Other alleged abuse includes using a “heart shot” without sedation for euthanizing pets, a process Burger said is inhumane. Allegations also claim staff wash kennels with the animals still inside them and pets aren’t given adequate, if any, outside time.

“It had never been addressed or even brought before any of the council before,” said St. George mayor Dan McArthur. “They’d never heard any of these issues.”

McArthur said the city immediately launched an internal investigation into the inner workings at the shelter. He said already they’ve made some staff and policy changes, but the investigation will tell them more.

“We have directed them no more,” McArthur said, referring specifically to euthanizing animals. “Until we get through this study where we’re looking at the policies, procedures, personnel, and the clinic itself, what can we do to make it better.”

The St. George animal shelter was originally built close to 20 years ago, and many advocates say that’s part of the problem, pointing to newer facilities in other cities as meeting humane animal needs better.

“It’s outdated,” Burger said. “St. George has tripled in it’s population, but it’s shelter is the same as it was 20 years ago.”

There’s no timeline on when the study may be complete, but McArthur said it will be a top priority, to make sure the animals are well-cared for. Advocates are glad something is finally being done, and hope it continues.

“We’ve achieved changes in the past,” said Kris Neal, owner of One More Chance Animal Rescue group.  “Which have been short lived as soon as the pressure is off.”

“The city is concerned. They’re doing an investigation,” said animal advocate Randy Fields. “That’s around the people, and to a certain extent, it’s around the process. But at the end of the day, it still remains the obligation, in my view of the city council to take a stand. To set the policy.”