Pasco Takes Over Management of Tri-Cities Animal Sanctuary

Tri-Cities officials are permanently taking control of the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter after a new report shows overcrowding, sick animals and a lack of stable veterinary care have become too big a problem for organizations non-profit.

A detailed report at a recent Pasco City Council meeting said a constant cycle of contractors had left the Tri-Cities animal shelter in an unstable position, even before a surprise inspection found 30 cats. sick and four malnourished dogs in November 2021.

This inspection led to the city withdrawing the Neo’s Nation Animal Foundation contract, and was followed by a series of legal issues for the nonprofit organization.

“Most, if not all, of these shortcomings to one degree or another have plagued (animal control authority) operations to one degree or another for years across multiple contractors,” according to a report. from Angela Pashon, the shelter’s acting director. .

Now, Pasco officials have decided to permanently take over management of the shelter, rather than trying to find another nonprofit to run the organization. The shelter was temporarily operated by the Benton-Franklin Humane Society after the Neo’s Nation contract was terminated.

Pasco, Richland and Kennewick will all contribute to the $2 million annual budget to provide animal control and housing services to the three cities, according to a statement from the City of Pasco. The other two cities supported the change.

The budget will be $400,000 more than the Benton-Franklin Humane Society received and more than double what the Neo’s Nation Animal Foundation received.

“After careful consideration of the operations and facilities of the animal shelter, it was clear that a city-run shelter would be the best path both for the taxpayer and for the animals in our collective care,” said City Manager Dave Zabell.

The decision is the latest after the city terminated its contract with Neo’s Nation Animal Foundation a year ago amid a slew of criminal allegations and lawsuits.

File photo – Rebecca Howard, manager of the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter, left, loads her car after Pasco police removed dozens of dogs and cats believed to have been neglected or abused at the shelter in November 2021. Jennifer King [email protected]

This included claims that the CFO had siphoned $300,000 from the shelter’s budget and that executives had received thousands of dollars in bonuses. There was also a criminal investigation to determine whether the conditions constituted cruelty to animals.

The city approved an emergency contract with the Benton-Franklin Humane Society to operate the shelter. They decided to terminate the contract in July, which led to the city stepping in. Pashon then wrote the report delivered to the city council this month.

While the organization saved the day in the wake of Neo’s Nation, Zabell said the years of trouble were just too much for them.

“(Benton-Franklin Humane Society) came on short notice and worked really hard to get it in order,” Zabell said. “The problem was that it had gotten so out of control that that was where most of the effort (of human society) had to be – this restoration of order. So they haven’t really had a chance to make any noticeable improvements in policy and staffing and to build relationships.

Autumn White, executive director of the Benton-Franklin Humane Society, said she was happy and pleased that local governments made the decision.

“That was my recommendation,” she told the Herald. “The way it’s been handled here in the Tri-Cities is dated.”

troubled shelter

For years Pasco, Kennewick and Richland were part of the Tri-Cities Animal Control Authority. The agency contracted with a nonprofit organization to manage the facility on 18th Avenue and provide animal control.

Pasco was the main administrator who managed the sending of offers and contracts.

The series of nonprofits that have taken over the shelter have all faced a similar set of problems. They had to balance a thin budget, raise money from grants, as well as care for animals, manage records and provide animal control, Pashon said during a presentation to city council Oct. 11.

With the constant turnover of new contractors, the facility was left without a mission or cohesive staff, Zabell said.

“The three cities have grown so much, and obviously they’re going to grow so much over the next few years, and maybe 20 years ago a non-profit organization could have come and followed that, but today, the number of animals is just so high and the expectations of the public are much higher,” he told the Herald. “I think it makes sense, and that’s the conclusion we’ve come to, for a city-run facility.”

When Pasco took over the shelter, officials were able to clearly understand the shelter’s problems, Pashon said. They understand:

A lack of policies and standard operating procedures

No veterinary partnerships established for drugs and vaccines

A lack of controls that allowed stray animals to mingle with the general population, animals to be taken off site without consideration, and customers to take animals out of their kennels to roam the establishment

Overcrowding in a predominantly unmodified animal facility

A backlog of animals placed waiting to be spayed or neutered so they can be adopted

A shelter with around 350 animals when it was designed for 200

Endemic upper respiratory infections among the feline population

1--Animal shelter
FILE — Volunteer Julie Webb hands out treats to dogs at the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter in Pasco, as Sampson, a German Shepherd mix, waits in her kennel. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

Pasco takes over

The city has made several improvements since taking over the shelter, Pashon said. These changes included hiring essential shelter staff, developing procedures and establishing a relationship with an external veterinarian.

They also partnered with the ASPCA Northern Tier Shelter Initiative and Mikey’s Chance Rescue to manage an outbreak of canine parvovirus at the shelter.

As a result, they are getting more animals into homes faster, as animals now receive medical attention and vaccinations upon arrival, she said.

The new managers also worked through the backlog of animals awaiting neutering, partnered with area rescues and installed security cameras at the shelter.

“While there is still work to be done at (the animal control authority), it has become clear that these services are best provided by a government agency,” she said. “Pasco, Kennewick and Richland executives have discussed a city-run operation and agree that the contractor structure is not a viable option at this time.”

The budget will pay for 20 full-time staff, the same number currently working at the shelter. Plans also include a permanent Animal Services Manager who will oversee the operation.

“I think Angela has come a long way, but a professional shelter manager who does this stuff for a living and is trained to do it, I think that will be a plus,” Zabell said during the interview. October 11 meeting. .

The shelter has developed procedures to ensure that each animal receives the attention it needs. This meant reducing the number of animals the shelter could potentially house,

Pashon said they plan to keep the euthanasia rate below 10%.

In response to Pashon’s report, Councilman Craig Maloney noted that the new structure will make the system more transparent. This means that people will know who to address their complaints to.

“I think that’s the right direction we’re going,” he said. “We will have a more premium product.”

Lagging lawsuits

As the town moves forward with improving the animal shelter, the criminal and civil cases surrounding the Neo’s Nation fallout continue to linger.

The active cases revolve around a $545,000 donation from a retired railroad engineer and military veteran. He divided his $1.5 million estate among three nonprofits, including the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter.

The donation was to be used “exclusively for charitable and educational purposes,” according to a lawsuit filed by the city.

Julie Chambers, the former finance manager, remains charged with embezzling $300,000 from the shelter’s account to buy a house in Richland. She remains charged with first-degree larceny and money laundering in Franklin County Superior Court.

His trial is scheduled for November 16.

Chambers previously claimed she owed money after spending her own funds when the organization took over the shelter.

A civil case in Benton County by Pasco officials continues to languish after a flurry of filings in late April and early May.

The city is trying to recover the $10,000 bonuses that were paid to Chambers, then shelter manager Rebecca Howard and a $5,000 bonus paid to the former shelter manager.

There have been no new developments in the case since then.

Animal cruelty charges originally filed against Howard in December and later dropped have not been refiled.

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Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.

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Jennifer R. Strohm