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Animal control under scrutiny

Killeen police say little about investigation

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HERALD FILE

Cats sit in cages in March 2011 at the Killeen Animal Control facility on Commerce Drive. The facility is embroiled in an internal investigation centering on the department’s supervisor, alleged policy violations and complaints of improper animal care. Killeen police have said little about the probe.

Updated

Killeen police remain mum on the topic of its Animal Control facility, which has become embroiled in an internal investigation centering on the department’s supervisor, Stacie Sherva.

City officials placed Sherva on paid administrative leave Oct. 4 while the Killeen Police Department’s Internal Affairs division investigates alleged policy violations and complaints of improper animal care at the facility.

“We haven’t been privy to a whole lot of information,” said Wayne Gilmore, a Killeen councilman who sits on the Animal Advisory Committee.

Since Oct. 4, KPD Commander Lee Caufield assumed the supervisor role. Caufield already oversaw Animal Control before Sherva was placed on leave. However, he is now at the facility on a daily basis, overseeing a staff of 12.

No photos, please

Though Caufield said the investigation has nothing to do with conditions at the facility, KPD refused to allow any Herald photographer on site to photograph the shelter’s interior despite it being a public building — built and operated with taxpayer money. They did let a Herald reporter on site to look around the shelter.

Councilman Jonathan Okray, chairman of the Animal Advisory Committee, said the city has been able to keep any problems at the shelter

out of the public eye “under the guise of a personnel issue.”

“You’re funded publicly, nothing should be private,” Okray said.

Police spokeswoman Ofelia Miramontez said the department wants to keep Animal Control employees away from the media. Administrators have instituted a “standing order” to all police employees, including animal control, to not speak to any media about the happenings at 3118 Commerce Drive, where the shelter is located.

“They’re looking at it that way because it will be destructive to the employees,” Miramontez said. “It will make them feel uncomfortable.”

Gilmore said that concerns him, but those issues arise when an ongoing investigation centers around how a facility operates.

“You always have concerns about something like that,” Gilmore said. “Like they said, it’s turned over to the police.”

Refusal to clean

George Fox, a prominent member of Killeen’s animal rescue and the head of Assisi Animal Refuge, said he had brought complaints to staff before regarding conditions at the shelter. Fox specifically mentioned the area of Animal Control that houses cats, which he said has been consistently “filthy.”

Fox also said he attempted to teach staff to help clean the infected eyes of some of the kittens there, but staff refused to do it.

“They had time to do it, they just didn’t want to do it,” Fox said. “They would just kill them and have a new group of kittens the next day.”

Through August, Animal Control euthanized more than one-third of the animals that moved through the facility in 2013, according to statistics provided by the city. In total, 1,402 animals were killed this year at the facility.

The rate has declined from the same period last year, when Animal Control euthanized 1,531 animals, which was then nearly 40 percent of the animals taken into the shelter.

Fox said he thinks the adoption rate at the facility is too low as well. He also is a member of the Animal Advisory Committee and requested a detailed explanation as to why more animals are not leaving the facility in the hands of new owners.

According to the city’s budget, officials project a 35 percent rate of adoption for animals at the shelter. This year, the shelter averaged an adoption rate of 28 percent.

“I want to know what do they plan to do about it,” Fox said. “Life is a whole lot easier in the animal community if we have a better adoption rate.”

Though the adoption rate is low, the number of animals transferred to no-kill shelters is more than twice what officials projected.

The Killeen Animal Shelter is the largest animal shelter between Waco and Austin. It housed 73 dogs, 42 cats and one rabbit on Friday, its website stated.

Contact Philip Jankowski at philipj@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.

4 images

HERALD FILE

Cats sit in cages in March 2011 at the Killeen Animal Control facility on Commerce Drive. The facility is embroiled in an internal investigation centering on the department’s supervisor, alleged policy violations and complaints of improper animal care. Killeen police have said little about the probe.

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