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MailTribune.com
  • Shelter from the storm

    Dramatic improvement seen in animal care, worker morale
  • At the peak of last week's triple-digit temperatures, the dog kennels at Jackson County Animal Care and Control bustled with activity.
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  • At the peak of last week's triple-digit temperatures, the dog kennels at Jackson County Animal Care and Control bustled with activity.
    Fans blasted cold air down the corridors, and volunteers from Friends of the Animal Shelter — FOTAS — offered canines treats frozen inside ice cubes to keep them cool. Other volunteers took turns with cats, allowing them some temporary play time out of their cages or stroking their backs until they purred.
    It's a snapshot of an evolving facility that, for some volunteers and staff, looks completely unfamiliar. The facility's 10 staff and 300-plus volunteers are working in a new environment, one they say has changed for the better.
    "It really has improved dramatically in the last year," said FOTAS volunteer Jane Babbitt.
    The changes started with a December 2011 incident in which a 4-year-old house cat named Max, belonging to Medford resident Priscilla Farrel, was mistakenly euthanized. Staff had labeled Max as a feral animal and said he was unmanageable.
    The public outcry that followed swept over the shelter and prompted the county to seek a review. The shelter's director, Colleen Macuk, stepped down in the midst of the controversy, citing health reasons.
    The Oregon Humane Society began a review of the shelter's practices a few months later at the county's request. The agency scrutinized shelter facilities, operations and procedures, and produced an 85-page report. The document praised some facets of the shelter, including cleanliness and well-intentioned staff, but was critical of other aspects, citing high euthanasia rates and inadequate medical care.
    "(This) was strictly initiated by a desire to do better," said Brenda King, Humane Society operations director. "There are new practices. There are always new things to learn."
    Shelter workers say they took the report to heart, and a year later many of the changes recommended by the Humane Society have been implemented, with more improvements to come.
    "We still feel it's just as busy, but I think we feel better about what we're doing," said shelter Manager Barbara Talbert, who stepped into the position after serving in a volunteer capacity as FOTAS president.
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