In an effort to offer solutions to the problems at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg AC & C shelter in NC, I reached out to Lisa Easton – the whistleblower who reported the abusive photos – and to Samantha Laine, a local animal rescuer. I asked each of them for a list of suggestions of how to bring meaningful reform to the shelter. They each provided me with a well thought out list and gave me permission to share their ideas on the blog. I hope these ideas could serve as a starting point for a discussion within the community about reforming the shelter.
Below is my summary of Ms. Easton’s suggestions. Quotation marks indicate portions directly lifted from her document which can be read in its entirety here.
- Adjudicate the Internal Affairs investigation promptly. CMPD website indicates “most cases can be resolved in 45 days”.
- Terminate all employees visible in the abuse photographs as well as those who posted the photos on Facebook, made “funny” comments about the photos, and any other employees determined by the investigation to have been involved and/or knowledgeable of the abuse.
- Replace shelter management team. They haven’t taken responsibility for this incident nor have they accepted responsibility for the oops-killing of two family pets.
- Specifically, shelter director Mark Balestra “advised employees to purge evidence [of online abuse photos] thus jeopardizing the integrity of the investigation”.
- Mary Blinn is the on-site shelter vet who failed to provide care for the hairless ferret in the photos. “This facility contracts Spay/Neuter services to the Humane Society of Charlotte. Replacing Mary Blinn with a progressive veterinarian willing and able to perform routine surgery will not only save tax dollars but lower euthanasia rates.”
- The shelter’s Public Information Specialist Melissa Knicely is paid $56,000 a year and yet “volunteers post adoptable animals on PetFinder while positive use of social media aka Facebook, YouTube and Twitter is prohibited”.
- “Demand The City Council establishes an animal welfare subcommittee to focus on the reform of Animal Care and Control. A citizen’s advisory board is needed to ensure accountability and transparency throughout a complete revision of sheltering operations, policy and procedures. Ensure every animal is treated humanely at all times and all but the terminally ill and tragically injured are made available for adoption. Working towards the goal of implementation of programs consistent with The Companion Animal Protection Act as published by No Kill Advocacy Center.”
Here is my summary of Ms. Laine’s suggestions for reform. Again, quotes are items lifted directly from the original document which can be viewed here.
- Make public the findings of the Internal Affairs investigation into the abuse photos.
- Clarify the shelter statistics publicly available online.
- Clarify the Pitbull stats since the shelter doesn’t adopt out Pitbulls.
- “Animals are not given pre-euthanasia injection or oral medication to anesthetize prior to injection of substance which kills animal. Animals — specifically dogs— which are considered potentially dangerous and liable to bite are “blanket jumped.” Given a “blanket party.” Dog has blanket thrown over body, is jumped from behind by one worker while other worker pulls out animal’s arm and injects substance which kills. This if slip lead tightened around neck, yanked, then roped around muzzle does not work to restrain animal.”
- Temperament test currently used by shelter is derived from Sue Sternberg’s testing protocols which have been largely discredited. “Tests are performed by volunteers on the weekends. Tests are performed in a room without windows in close proximity/almost adjacent to the holding ward, where animals recently brought to shelter for processing are housed. These animals are in distress. In rooms leading off of holding ward animals are euthanized. These animals are in distress. Hence severe auditory and olfactory impact to animals being temp tested.” Dogs not given 10-15 minute walk prior to the test which negatively impacts results. A more appropriate temperament test would save lives.
- Independent review of management needed.
I think it’s relevant to include here the shelter’s stats, as posted online. In fiscal year 2009, they killed nearly 66% of the pets they took in – that’s close to 14,000 animals killed. In fiscal year 2010, the shelter killed almost 65% of its pets – that’s just under 13,000 killed animals. Fiscal year 2011, which began in July 2010, has been removed from the webpage in recent weeks – perhaps because no one was updating it. The only month that had been filled in was July. That month indicated a nearly 68% kill rate – just shy of 1300 pets killed.
Hopefully they will put the information for fiscal year 2011 back on the website soon, with the months of August, September and October filled in so the public can get an accurate idea of how the shelter is doing currently. CMPD-ACC describes itself on its website as “one of the top ten agencies in the nation”. As such, I’m sure they are eager to maintain accountability and transparency to the community they serve as well as AC shelters all over the country.
I attempted to contact Mark Balestra for comment before finalizing this post but haven’t heard back. If I do, I will update this post or create another to reflect his comments. In addition, the comments section is open to readers under the regular guidelines so if Mr. Balestra or anyone else from the shelter would like to respond, that’s an open avenue.