The Killeen Police Department’s firing of the city’s animal control supervisor last week gives the city the opportunity to start fresh in what has been a troubled department.
The termination of Stacie Sherva was not unexpected. Sherva had been on paid administrative leave since Oct. 4, while KPD conducted an investigation into allegations that she violated policy related to the proper care of animals, as well as personnel management policy.
Sherva, 43, who worked as the city’s animal control supervisor since August 2008, previously worked at several control departments and shelters in Bell and Williamson counties. She started out volunteering at a Round Rock veterinary clinic when she was 18 before going to work for Round Rock Animal Control.
Unfortunately, Killeen’s animal control facility has been plagued by controversy over the past three years.
In early 2012, several area residents contacted the Herald about problems with animals they adopted from the Killeen Animal Control Shelter.
At the time, two veterinarians and one local resident said they tried to contact the shelter multiple times to inform the staff they treated dogs with distemper, but received no response.
The veterinarian said it is standard practice for his office to notify kennels or shelters to inform them of distemper, due to its highly communicable nature. In response, Sherva told the Herald she only knew of one verified distemper case and “that was years ago.”
Other residents complained that their new pets got sick soon after they brought them home from the shelter. Two of them had to be euthanized.
At the time of Sherva’s initial suspension in October, George Fox, a prominent member of Killeen’s animal rescue effort and the head of Assisi Animal Refuge, said he previously brought complaints to staff regarding conditions at the shelter. Fox specifically mentioned the area of Animal Control that houses cats, which he said had 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.
In the wake of Sherva’s Oct. 4 suspension, Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin appointed KPD Commander Lee Caufield to the supervisor’s role at the animal control shelter, overseeing the facility’s 12-member staff.
In an October memo to the Killeen City Council, Baldwin announced plans to improve the shelter. One important change was rearranging how animals are stored at the facility, including separating strays from adoption-ready animals to reduce exposure to disease.
Other goals included increased supervision of personnel at the shelter, new equipment for trapping stray animals, a stricter shelter cleaning schedule, and better record-keeping of the intake of animals and any treatment performed while they are in custody.
By year’s end, Caufield implemented many of those changes.
With the announcement of Sherva’s termination last week, Baldwin also said the search for her replacement will begin immediately.
Whoever is selected for the post will have a significant challenge.
The Killeen Animal Shelter is the largest animal shelter between Waco and Austin.
For the past two years, adoption rates have been below what were called for in Killeen’s municipal budget.
It is likely that continued to attention to proper animal care and shelter cleaning procedures will go a long way to improving those numbers in the coming year.
An efficient, well-run shelter that provides compassionate care for the animals it takes in should be the goal of the next supervisor, as well as the shelter staff.
Ultimately, the way a city-run shelter treats the animals in its care is a reflection on the city as a whole.
Killeen residents deserve a shelter they can be proud of.