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Inspection rips Longview animal shelter, finds minimum standard not met in 17 of 45 areas

By Richard Yeakley
June 13, 2013 at 11 p.m.

A recent inspection by the Texas Department of Health Services cited Longview's animal shelter for gross noncompliance, saying some conditions bordered on cruelty.

Members of the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee will meet Monday to review the inspection and propose recommendations, although a shelter official says the facility is back in compliance.

Accompanied by a report detailing conditions an inspector said were "completely unsanitary," the April 16 inspection said the shelter failed to meet minimum standards in 17 of 45 criteria.

Two of the shelter's four quarantine cages received a probation rating.

"The Humane Society is not there to be cruel. It is there to save lives," said Susan Mazarakes-Gill, chairwoman of the board of directors for the Humane Society of Northeast Texas.

Mazarakes-Gill noted the inspection took place a week before the hiring of Executive Director Scott Holloway, who changed cleaning protocol.

The annual inspection was conducted by Angela Hopkins, a public health technician with the Texas Department of State Health Services Zoonosis Control Division.

The state inspection is required for shelters that have rabies quarantine facilities; however, the inspector is tasked to examine the entire shelter, said department spokesman Chris Van Dusen.

The non-compliance of the quarantine area was due to a "broken guillotine door" that would allow a dog in quarantine to potentially contact people or other dogs walking past the rear of its cage, according to the report.

<h3>Task force</h3>

The 6,304-square-foot shelter is operated by the Humane Society of Northeast Texas, which maintains a $203,000 contract with the city of Longview to house its animals. The shelter also takes in animals from at least three counties and neighboring cities.

The open door policy of the shelter led to controversy this past year, as intake rates soared to between 700 to 1,000 animals per month, and, in some months, more than 70 percent of animals were euthanized.

Seeking a solution, Mayor Jay Dean gathered a task force to determine what should be done about complaints with the shelter's animal save rate. After months of work, the task force proposed a new, larger shelter be built and run by a nonprofit organization, leaving many details to the Longview City Council.

Mazarakes-Gill said that after the April inspection was completed, compliance was quickly regained.

"At our April board meeting, they told us the repairs had been made to regain compliance," Mazarakes-Gill said. She said many areas of noncompliance were relatively minor fixes, but collectively led to the report.

Van Dusen said shelter employees quickly addressed the two cages in question and that a subsequent inspection removed the "probationary" finding.

He added the inspector noted other progress being made at the shelter, but did not re-inspect the facility fully.

<h3>'Borders on cruelty'</h3>

The written report, filed in tandem with the inspection, painted a damning picture of conditions of the shelter at the time.

"In (one cage), there was an obviously ill dog lying in a filthy bed with her own (vomit), urine soaked bedding and feces in the cage and corner of bed. This is not only completely unsanitary but borders on cruelty," Hopkins wrote in her report. "Cat cages in the wild cat room all had litter boxes so full of feces that it led to concern about when these boxes had last been emptied and cleaned."

Mazarakes-Gill responded that the dog in question had been brought to the shelter the day of the inspection and was being nursed back to health. Shelter employees would tend to the dog's cleanliness regularly, she said, but as the anemic dog tried to eat, it would vomit.

The executive said the cruelty was committed by the person who left the dog to starve, and employees saw to the animal as often as possible.

The report also called the facility's kitchen "chaotic."

"It was not readily clear what was for the humans and what was for the animals," Hopkins noted.

In addition to general criticisms of uncleanliness that led to "dead bugs, kitty litter, trash and even a used syringe (no needle)" on the floor and concerns about the condition of a majority of the shelter's cages, the inspector noted a specific case of a sick puppy being kept with healthy puppies.

"Per the manager, there was a positive parvo puppy in the puppy room. This particular puppy was housed the previous night with two other puppies," Hopkins wrote. " When questioned why it was still in that cage, the manager had a staff member move the positive puppy across to another cage in the room. There were other dogs in cages next to it and below it. There were also several puppies coughing, and one other puppy appeared to be lethargic.

"The parvo puppy was only removed from the room once this noncompliance was pointed out."


Mazarakes-Gill said that like a restaurant inspection, a minor error can cause a lack of compliance. She also praised the work of Holloway, the shelter's new executive director.

"He has a heart to save more lives. We really have been doing well, keeping the save rate up, and we really want to do that. That is one of the reasons the shelter is busting at the seams. He does not want to put down any adoptable animals," Mazarakes-Gill said.

She added Holloway has added additional cleaning protocols.

When a rash of disease hit the shelter in late April and May, Holloway said he used an air-conditioned trailer to isolate sick animals and help nurse them back to health.

Dean said the report seemed to describe what has been known about the animal shelter in previous months.

"It solidifies the reasons we want to build a new shelter. ... These issues are the same issues we have known about," Dean said.

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee is set to consider the report at 4 p.m. Monday to discuss recommendations for the Humane Society.

The meeting will be in the conference room of the Development Services Building at 400 S. High St.

Mazarakes-Gill said she is unsure why, two months after the shelter had regained compliance, the advisory board wants to provide recommendations.



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