ST. GEORGE – Dark clouds of controversy once loomed over the St. George Animal Shelter due to allegations of animal neglect and mistreatment. Now, a year later, the clouds have long since parted and the city’s animal shelter has undergone a transformation that has won the praise of city officials and animal rescue advocates alike.
Saturday the public is invited to come and see firsthand the changes made to the animal shelter as it holds a grand reopening event complete with ribbon cutting, tours of the remodeled facility, half-price pet adoption fees and more.
“I’m very pleased with how things have changed there,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said. “We’re improving it with our community partners.”
Once forbidding, now welcoming
Kris Neal, who runs the nonprofit One More Chance C.A.T.S. program and also manages the city’s feral cat trap/neuter/release program, said the St. George Animal Shelter originally felt dark and forbidding.
“I couldn’t go in there,” she said. “It was depressing.”
Neal said conditions for the animals in the shelter weren’t the best. The animals appeared stressed at times, as did the people dealing with them. There were also issues with shelter management, or rather, mismanagement.
Neal was one of a number of people who complained to the city about the state of the shelter, eventually leading to a public meeting on the matter in July 2013. There were allegations made against then shelter manager David Vane that accused him of mistreating and neglecting animals and mismanaging the shelter, among other alleged problems.
An investigation was launched by the St. George Police Department, which oversees the shelter, and it was concluded that while some of the allegations were baseless, others were confirmed and required prompt resolution. The investigation findings can be read in detail here.
Vane was removed as the shelter manager and placed on administrative leave. St. George Police Sgt. Ivor Fuller replaced him and the city began to implement changes to shelter policy and the facility.
“It’s night and day,” Neal said. “From what I can see the animals are a lot happier; a whole lot more at peace.”
Overall, Neal said, the shelter has a much friendlier atmosphere to it.
Change for the better
Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager, said a number of city departments were involved in remodeling the city’s animal shelter, as were partnering animal rescue groups that helped donate to the effort.
“It’s definitely been a community effort,” Mortensen said.
Changes made during the remodeling of the animal shelter include:
- Remodeled outdoor kennels, along with the addition of new ones – the dogs are also able to move freely between the indoor and outdoor kennels
- Adding two dog runs – one for small dogs and one for large dogs
- A remodeled indoor cat room with the addition of an outdoor cat enclosure
- Raised beds for all animals
- Remodeled administrative office and restrooms
- An upgraded computer network
- New landscaping to the property
- Making the shelter more ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant and accessible
The cost of time and materials for the remodel is estimated at over $100,000, Mortensen said. Along with the various city departments involved, he also credited partnering animal rescue groups for their aid in the process. These included Best Friends Animal Society, P.A.W.S, Because Animals Matter, H.A.R.T., and Neal’s feral cat trap/neuter/release program.
“We’ve also received tremendous cooperation from our veterinarians,” he said.
Changes related to management and policy have taken place as well. The standard of care for the animals and the cleaning of kennels have been brought in line with practices that better provide for the safety and overall well being of animals staying at the shelter.
The shelter has also officially adopted a “no-kill” policy. Animals will not be put to sleep while housed at the shelter.
As for personnel, Mortensen said they are no longer referred to as animal control officers. They are now called “animal service officers.” As well, they have been certified by the state and national animal control associations.
In February, fees at the shelter were revised as part of the overhaul process. Adoption fees for un-neutered and un-spayed animals were lowered to $50 for dogs and $40 for cats. Getting the animals spayed and neutered is covered in the revised fees. The costs for animals that have already been “fixed” is a blanket $20.
“A lot of good things are happening,” Mortensen said.
The St. George Animal Shelter has also made a presence for itself on Facebook over the last year. It has routinely posted photos of animals waiting for adoption, while also sharing updates on the aspects of the facility’s overhaul on occasion.
Pike said he and his daughter went to the animal shelter recently and volunteered to walk some of the dogs in the shelter. He said he was happy with the experience and progress the shelter had made.
“Everything is in a much better state,” he said.
Grand reopening and open house
The shelter will host its grand reopening and an open house starting at 10 a.m., Saturday, starting with a ribbon cutting. Shelter staff and partners will be available to answer questions, and tours of the remodeled facility will also be offered. Radio personalities from Canyon Media will also be broadcasting live from the animal shelter.
All pet adoption fees will be half-off that day.
“We’re excited for it,” Pike said.
The St. George Animal Shelter is located at 605 East Red Hills Parkway, St. George, and is will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday. The event is free to the public.
Ed. CORRECTION made June 18: Reference to the organization One More Change CATS has been corrected to One More Chance C.A.T.S.
- St. George Animal Shelter | 605 E. Water Works Drive, St. George | Telephone 435-627-4350 | Open to the public M-F 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-noon | Web page with fee schedule | Facebook
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