St. George Mayor accused of intimidating shelter volunteers

Posted at 9:51 PM, Aug 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-07 23:52:21-04

ST. GEORGE, Utah – In the wake of reform at the St. George Animal Shelter, Mayor Dan McArthur is accused of trying to intimidate animal shelter volunteers, but he said his words were misinterpreted.

Animal treatment has been a hot topic in St. George after it surfaced abuse was taking place at the city-run facility. Volunteers with the P.A.W.S. organization said McArthur paid them a visit before the city council work session where the abuse claims were brought up, and they said he told them to stay quiet.

“If I’ve offended people, I certainly want to apologize and ask forgiveness of that,” McArthur said.

He said it was not his intention to silence volunteers, he only wanted them to maintain order and stick to their time constraints.

“I, unfortunate choice of words, may have said there’s some ‘fanatics’ coming to this meeting,” McArthur said. “[I was] just trying to soften it, get to the bottom of this, and get it straightened out.”

But volunteers took offense to his statements, and some are linking it to his re-election campaign. McArthur is on the ballot this fall, facing current St. George City Council member Jon Pike as a challenger.

P.A.W.S. organizational director Lynn Burger said her volunteers are entitled to their opinion on mayoral candidates, but she said she wants to make it clear the organization does not endorse one or the other.

“PAWS is not a political organization,” Burger said. “We did not intend, in any way, to influence anybody’s mayoral candidate preference.”

She also said while change at the shelter may have been politically motivated, she worries the political fight will get in the way of the animals’ welfare.

“We feel right now we’re kind of in the middle of the political issue,” Burger said. “We just want to go on record in saying: Since that initial meeting, there’s been a lot of changes made at the shelter. We’re very pleased with the progress.”

McArthur insists his actions were not politically motivated, and that his interests are for the animals. He said he’s meeting with various groups and other shelters in the region to make sure the improvements at the St. George shelter are to top standards.