More than a year after the termination of Killeen’s animal control manager, former volunteers are once again raising concerns about conditions and practices at the city’s shelter.

Their worries included concerns over the shelter’s cleanliness, as well as reports of the improper euthanasia of two animals.

The Killeen Animal Shelter has had a tumultuous history in recent years. In late January 2014, former manager Stacie Sherva was fired after allegations surfaced regarding poor sanitary conditions, injured animals left in cages without veterinary care or pain medication, and the adoption of sick dogs and cats.

Day-to-day management of the animal control unit, later renamed the Animal Services Unit, was overseen by Killeen Police Commander Lee Caufield until August, when Edward W. Tucker was named the division’s new manager.

But former volunteers, all of whom worked in the shelter after Sherva’s firing, still have concerns, some of which echo those that plagued the shelter in the past.

Cleanliness questioned

Chief among the concerns is the shelter’s cleanliness. Mary Chang said she began volunteering at the shelter in September, and said she became troubled by what she saw.

“It didn’t seem like anybody was cleaning out the pens regularly. There was feces all over, it was on the walls and the floors,” she said. “A lot of it looked old.”

Kendra Nightengale, a former adoption center assistant manager for the Texas Humane Heroes rescue organization, raised similar concerns after a visit to the shelter in December. She also said many kennels had a large amount of old feces and urine.

“As an animal welfare employee myself, I understand that animals are messy,” Nightengale wrote in an email to Killeen Animal Advisory Committee member George Fox. “But there was no excuse for the way the animals were living at this government-funded shelter.”

Caufield, who still oversees the unit, said in an email Friday that he was aware of concerns about the frequency and level of cleaning, and said the issues have been addressed.

“Depending on each employee’s daily commitments, the volume of volunteers available to assist, the number of animals currently being housed, and the volume of feces generated by different animals, this at times becomes a difficult task to keep up with throughout the day,” he said. “Upon review, we reinforced our cleaning policy with all employees, and implemented spot checks throughout the day by supervisory staff to ensure we maintain as clean of an environment as possible.”

In addition, records of an annual inspection of the shelter by a local veterinarian conducted Dec. 19 found the shelter and its facilities satisfactory.

Euthanasia practices reviewed

More troubling were the claims of another former shelter volunteer, Jerry Hale. Hale, who volunteered at the Killeen shelter in October while he was working toward becoming a licensed veterinary technician, said he witnessed the botched euthanasia of two dogs that left the animals suffering for hours.

“They were just jabbing (the needle) in any place they could,” he said. “They injected them in the stomach, and not intravenously, and they took hours to die.”

According to the Texas administrative code, intravenous injections are the preferred method of euthanasia for animals, though injection into the body cavity or organs also is considered acceptable.

Hale said both dogs were still alive when they were placed in plastic bags and moved to a freezer to await incineration.

“I went outside and I threw up,” said Hale, who said he now works as a veterinary technician in Austin. “It was awful.”

Word of what happened spread in the shelter, especially among the volunteers.

Caufield said Animal Services was made aware of the botched euthanasia claims in November, but officials never found anyone who witnessed it firsthand.

“In reviewing this issue, we were unable to locate anyone who had any information, other than inferring that someone had told them this happened,” he said. “Different replies had different timelines, and the story itself varied depending on the source.”

While Caufield said officials never positively confirmed the claims, he said the unit took precautions and took steps to review procedures and training.

“Despite the inability to confirm the event, as an act of caution, we had the shelter’s euthanasia procedures reviewed by a veterinarian,” he said. “We are also coordinating with the same veterinarian to review our current process and provide refresher training on procedures and protocols as set by the state.”

In a Wednesday email exchange between Fox and Killeen police Chief Dennis Baldwin obtained by the Herald, the chief noted the veterinarian reviewed the shelter’s euthanasia process, and agreed it “complied with state law,” and instituted additional “spot checks” to review it moving forward.

“Based on what has already been done, and what is yet to occur, it appears that the animal services unit is handling these matters properly,” Baldwin wrote.

Fox, who also was troubled by the reports from volunteers, asked that a camera be placed in the room where euthanasia takes place to record each procedure.

Caufield indicated the unit and its leadership remained committed to improving and addressing questions and concerns.

“In closing, it is important to note that with diligent attention, open communication and reasonable application, we seek to improve every day, providing future family pets to our community,” he said.

Improving image

As the unit tries to move from under the shadow of the controversy surrounding Sherva’s firing, the work to revamp its processes and its public image continues.

That included new intake and cleaning practices, and added attendants to care for animals at the shelter. The shelter also partnered with local rescue groups to hold adoption events.

Records obtained by the Herald showed the shelter had 2,208 pet adoptions in 2014, an increase of 493 from the previous year. The number of animals euthanized dropped from 2,014 in 2013 to 1,662 in 2014.

The same data also showed the number of animal transfers decreased by 402 from 1,116 in 2013 to 714 in 2014. The number of animals fostered dropped by 10.

The city also increased funding to the unit. The 2015 budget for the unit saw a $112,000 increase from an estimated $754,000 for the previous fiscal year to $868,082 this fiscal year.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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(15) comments

To Tell The Truth

Two Commanders caused all this in the last 2 or 3 years... Anything done to them? There was a coverup on the abuse the former shelter manager endured.. I hope she sues the hell out of the police department. One commander treated her and the staff like hell, he had a breakdown and was forced to leave. The next commander Coughfield or something like that is his name took revenge on her when she did NOTHING wrong.. Sad... I used to support police 100% until I heard about this. The Police DO Wrong!!

Proud Mother of an Army Avi8er

Maybe all the concerned citizens should contact Jonathan Okray...he seems to be the only one on the council with any sense...that truly represents the citizens and has a conscience.

doggirl


“Depending on each employee’s daily commitments, the volume of volunteers available to assist, the number of animals currently being housed, and the volume of feces generated by different animals, this at times becomes a difficult task to keep up with throughout the day,” he said. “Upon review, we reinforced our cleaning policy with all employees, and implemented spot checks throughout the day by supervisory staff to ensure we maintain as clean of an environment as possible.”

If you have supervisory staff then you have people who can clean up feces. You should not use a lack of volunteers as a reason for filth. Sorry, but this all sounds like excuses galore. There is no excuse for filth in a shelter. Period.

The people of Killeen need to contact each and every city council member and mayor to demand that the animals in this shelter be treated humanely. There is no, none, zilch excuse for this kind of treatment.

TexasTech1226

go to killeentexas.gov/council and email or call to express your concern, nothing gets done unless people demand change.

TexasTech1226

Go to the city of Killeen's website and click City of Killeen, Texas - Mayor and Council


make sure to send them all an email or call to express your concern.

ImJustSayin

Sounds to me like there needs to be some firing and new hiring going on with a stringent interview. It is horrid to hear about what is going on and the lack of care and concern for the animals.
Trust me, if I could I would adpot more but I am at full capacity at my house.
Also, the Killeen shelter should network with non kill shelters and rescue organizations to reduce the number of animals facing death in their facility.
There are living, breathing and feeling little souls. They know what is going on and the staff should be aware of that. If you have no heart - you need not apply .....

Citizen360

If they truly are concerned for the animals well being then they should commit to being more transparent. Install cameras where the animals are euthanized and housed. This would be a simple means to showing the public that they're doing what's right and are not afraid to show it. Also, don't show me a bunch of numbers on a report, that does not impress me. Neither does just doing the bare minimum. Note the supposed veterinarians opinion did not say that they were going above and beyond. It basically said there doing the bare minimum. Especially, with other allegations of PD and code enforcement skewing their numbers to reflect what they want the public to see. Nothing speaks truth more than video. Therefore, put your efforts where your mouth is.

vegforlife

The fish stinks at the head. Killeen has a problem with horrible city officials who can't delegate job responsibilities by credentials, but instead does it by friendships at the expense of tax payers. Obviously the shelter has poor record keeping as well, if they can't seem to figure out who was present for the 2 animals in question. This will continue until the citizens have had enough.

Robyn1160

Why have there always been issues with Killeen Animal Shelter? Maybe it's because the city insists on hiring their own people with their specific, ideal, credentials. Instead, why not hire compassionate, animal people, that have managerial and people skills? When Stacie was fired who do you think trained the others under her? Doesnt it make more since to really clean house and actually get caring, yet authoritative, individuals to run the shelter? They can then train the staff on how to do it right. Sludge runs down hill people, so instead of trying to continually back peddle perhaps a more proactive approach would be best! When people love what they do; for more than just a pay check, things change. Maybe that would solve this never ending issue!

nulisecundus

[sad]it would seem the new director is about the same as the last POS

MChang

The issues stated above were brought to the attention of Mr.Tucker and Texas Health and Human Services which has a department that overseas animal shelters and they are the ones conducting the inspections. It was not stated so in the article, but they were. George Fox also brings up other items missing in the article.

Proud Mother of an Army Avi8er

Question...when Jerry Hale witnessed the abuse of these dogs being euthanized, did he immediately report it to the police? Word about it spread through the shelter, but did anyone report it?

Who monitors animal shelters...isn't it routine to do so. So then why is it "old" feces covering the floors and walls of the cages present?

It is pure evil for anyone to see abuse and not report it...

Bless the beast and the children for in this world they have no voice...they have no choice.

MChang

The issues stated above were brought to the attention of Mr.Tucker and Texas Health and Human Services which has a department that overseas animal shelters and they are the ones conducting the inspections. It was not stated so in the article, but they were. George Fox also brings up other items missing in the article.

George Fox

Three main points missng from this story. Second in command kept his personnel pet at the shelter for up to 6 months and required staff to care for the animal. When Staice Sherva was fired there was a full scale investigation that was over and inch thick. Reading that investigation and conpairing it to this current mess shows about the same leverl of animal abuse by staff yet no investigation. Same people writing statements about Stacie are the same people abusing animals today. Stacie had to go current leaders need to stay with no investigation. I have been involved with the animal shelter for almost 20 years and one thing has never changed. The Killeen Police Department has never been able to run the shelter correctly and It has been hard to believe anything they say. These city animals deserve better then to be abused at the shelter. Citizens need to contact their council and demand an invstigation.

OldWoman

Animal Services should not be under the police department. In my opinion, logically, Animal Services should be under Community Services, or with Code Enforcement.

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