Animal shelter

The Madison County Animal Shelter is the subject of an ongoing investigation.

The Madison County Animal Shelter is the subject of an ongoing investigation.

The investigation was requested by Madison County Supervisors after former employee, Tina Auth, spoke out against the facility during last week’s board meeting. Auth, who worked at the shelter since November 2017, said she couldn’t begin to explain the things that go on behind shelter doors. She said many animals were dying of simple things like colds and infections because they weren’t receiving proper medical care.

“It’s wrong this is happening,” she said, pleading with county officials to remove shelter manager Greg Cave from his position.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Auth said she realized there was something wrong at the shelter early on and complained to Cave, but nothing changed. She said she sought out the advice from various animal rescue groups who advised her to accumulate photos and videos as evidence. She said kittens like Denise, who came into the shelter with a cut off paw, sat for two days without medical attention and only received it once Auth herself took the cat to a veterinarian.

“That cat should have gone to the vet immediately even if it was to be euthanized,” she said. “The animal shelter is supposed to be a safe haven for animals.”

She said the shelter also claims to only euthanize animals who are aggressive or extremely sick, but that’s not the case. She said animals are euthanized every day including those being surrendered by owners for rehoming.

According to annual custody reports by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences (VDACS), Madison’s euthanization rates are higher than the rates of all state agencies combined and Orange and Greene counties’ rates. According to the reports, in 2018, state agencies euthanized 8,669 of 125,020 dogs, or 6.93 percent. Meanwhile, the Madison County Animal Shelter euthanized 26 of its 297 dogs, or 8.96 percent. Of the 297 dogs, none were listed as being quarantined as part of a bite case. Five were in safe-keeping for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, three had been there before Jan. 1, 84 were surrendered by owner, 192 were strays and 13 were received from other agencies. In addition to the 26 euthanized, 75 of the dogs were adopted out, 130 were reclaimed by their owners, 58 were transferred to other agencies and eight were still at the shelter as of Dec. 31. The Madison Animal Shelter’s euthanization rate for 2017 was also higher than the state rate at 11.11 percent compared to 7.95 percent in 2017. It was lower than the state rate of 9.10 percent in 2016. Madison’s rate was 8.96 percent.

Comparatively, the Orange County Animal Shelter euthanized 39 of its 686 dogs in 2018, or 5.68 percent. Twelve were listed as quarantined as part of a bite case while 44 were at the shelter Jan. 1, 367 were strays, six were seized, 241 were surrendered by owner, six were received from other agencies and 10 were born at the shelter or emergency housed. Of the 686, 225 were reclaimed by their owners, 345 were adopted out, 74 were transferred to another agency and three died while in custody. The dog euthanization rate for 2016 was 8.68 percent and 6.29 percent for 2017.

Over in Greene, one of the county shelter’s 305 dogs was euthanized. Three were listed as quarantined for a bite case. Eighteen were on-hand Jan. 1, 190 were strays, one was seized, 92 were surrendered by owners and one was received from another agency. Of the 305, 100 were reclaimed by their owners, 144 were adopted out, 21 were transferred to another agency in-state, 27 transferred to an agency out-of-state and 12 remained at the shelter Dec. 31. No dogs were euthanized by the Greene shelter in 2016 or 2017.

On the feline side, in 2018 all state agencies euthanized 16,672 of the 106,151 cats in agency shelters, or 17.26 percent. At the Madison County Animal Shelter, 236 of 480 cats were euthanized, or 49.16 percent. Of the 480 cats, two were on-hand Jan. 1, 120 were strays, two were quarantined as part of a bit case and 356 were surrendered by owners. Six were then reclaimed by owners, 157 were adopted, 40 were transferred in-state to another agency, 31 were transferred out-of-state, four died in custody and six were still at the shelter as of Dec. 31. The cat euthanization rate at the shelter has been fairly consistent with 45.14 percent in 2016 and 46.55 percent in 2017. Comparatively, the rate for all state agencies was 25.06 percent in 2016 and 21.17 percent in 2017.

In Orange, the feline rate was much lower. In 2018, 80 of 654 cats were euthanized, or 12.23 percent. Of the 686 cats taken in at the shelter, 62 had been there as of Jan. 1, 129 were strays, one was quarantined for a bite case, 410 were surrendered by owners, eight were received from another agency and 44 were born at the shelter or emergency housed. Eight were then reclaimed by their owners, 427 were adopted, 109 were transferred to another state agency and 30 died while in custody. Orange’s feline euthanization rates for 2016 and 2017 were 10.78 percent and 9.58 percent respectively.

The Greene County Animal Shelter does not accept cats.

Auth said she stayed at her job with the Madison County Animal Shelter for as long as she did because she loved the animals and wanted to make a change. She quit last week after being reprimanded and demoted for attending a fundraiser for the animal shelter, which she said was the final nail in the coffin. The fundraiser, organized and hosted by White Horse Auto Wash raised $1,140.06 for the animal shelter’s medical fund.

Auth said she doesn’t blame the county supervisors for the situation at the animal shelter. She said she believes they weren’t aware of the problem and were trusting their shelter manager.

In a perfect world, Auth said she’d like to see a new shelter manager along with people who will protect and care about the animals.

“This isn’t about me,” she said. “It’s about the animals.”

During last week’s board of supervisors meeting, chairman Clay Jackson said he was familiar with the situation, but couldn’t speak on the “personnel matter.” However, the supervisors said it would be discussed during closed session. On Thursday, county administrator Jack Hobbs released a statement that the county has asked the Virginia State Police to conduct an investigation into the recent allegations of criminal activity at the shelter. He said a separate investigation by the VDACS is also underway.

“Along with assisting in the county’s core mission of protecting public safety, the proper care for all animals lodged at the Madison County Animal Shelter is a priority,” Hobbs wrote. “The shelter has historically been supported by many volunteers and generous donors who participate in the county’s efforts to appropriately care for sick and abused animals. The shelter staff endeavors to place companion animals in adoption situations through various programs it manages.”

Hobbs said the shelter serves as a model for other state animal shelters and the county welcomes the opportunity to review shelter policies to confirm it is in compliance with state law and modern best practices.

It’s unknown how long the investigation will take. As of Tuesday, no other personnel actions related to the animal shelter have been taken by the supervisors.

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