ST. GEORGE – The St. George City Council is taking a stand against alleged animal abuse at the city’s shelter.
The council unanimously passed a resolution Thursday specifying guidelines and procedures. It comes just a week after a firestorm of allegations of ongoing abuse and mistreatment of animals in the shelter.
On Wednesday, the council, along with Mayor Dan McArthur, announced the resolution and that the officer formerly in charge of the shelter is on administrative leave during the investigation.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Kris Neal, who owns One More Chance Animal Rescue. “This has been a life-long attempt to get change in the animal shelter.”
Neal was among those who first brought the allegations forward. She claims animals have been neglected for years, left in their kennels without proper outdoor time, kennels were power washed with the dogs still inside, and inhumane practices of euthanasia were performed.
Jon Pike, St. George City Council member, said he wants to assure people they are confronting the issue.
“I wanted to say to the public, assure them that at the highest levels of city government we are aware,” he said. “We are aware of what’s going on. We should have been aware sooner, in my opinion, and we need to take responsibility for that.”
The resolution sets forth expectations of staff at the shelter, including a “no-kill” policy. Pets brought by residents for euthanasia will be referred to local animal clinics for evaluation. The shelter will also work more closely with local animal groups to place animals in foster homes when kennels are full. The resolution also clarifies policies on treatment, cleaning and feeding animals housed in the shelter.
“We could have done that without a resolution,” Pike said. “But I felt we owed it to the public, and so did the other council members and the mayor, that’s why it’s a resolution, to make it crystal clear: Here’s what we stand for. Here’s what we’ll be doing in the future.”
During discussion of the resolution, several city representatives expressed remorse for not having found out about the issue sooner. Pike said it’s a lesson for city government to be more aware of the operations at city run facilities.
“We need to ask questions, and we need to go visit these places, and ask more questions and we need to be open to the public,” Pike said.
The internal investigation has no timeline for completion. Pike said they hope to have it back in a few weeks, so the discussion can continue and future changes will be addressed. Animal advocates said Thursday’s resolution is another step in the right direction, and they said they hope the city continues to take the matter seriously.
“They are as right on the money as you can be in a political environment,” St. George resident Randy Fields said. “So the reality is those are the immediate operational things that need dealing with.”
The finding of that investigation will be presented at a future city council meeting.