Commissioners defend animal shelter despite critical audit

Multnomah Commissioners grilled auditors however not shelter management after an audit found issues had actually not been resolved more than two years after earlier review.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Multnomah County Animal Services Director Jackie Rose, shown during a 2016 tour of the Troutdale animal shelter's cat cages area. The cages have since been replaced with larger ones in response to an audit that year. Exactly what if qualified government auditors carried out an extensive review of an agency and discovered maltreated animals and mishandled resources-- just to have elected authorities rather side with the assurances used by the very same leading supervisor who was the focus of the crucial report? Well, residents of Multnomah County are about to learn. The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners recently were told by personnel of elected Auditor Steve March that files, dozens of interviews with staff and volunteers, and several check outs to the county animal shelter in Troutdale revealed that dogs in the care of the county animal shelter in Troutdale in some cases choose months without significant human contact ofTRIBUNE PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - County auditors were told that the Multnomah shelter managers had no plan to ensure enrichment activities, meaningful human contact or toys for dogs at the Troutdale shelter. As a result, dogs in the care of the county can go months without the sort of attention considered a basic need by shelter professionals.

the sort considered a fundamental requirement by shelter experts, likely fueling stress for the animals and anti-social habits that might be dangerous for those embracing them. The auditors likewise reported that while some enhancements had actually been made given that an earlier, thorough review of the shelter in 2016, just a third of their official recommendations had actually been completed in the 30 months because. However instead of grill shelter supervisors about the report, or the absence of enhancement in many areas considering that 2016, commissioners questioned auditors with noticeable skepticism regarding whether their presentation was too negative as well as assured shelter managers of their continued support."The saying that pertains to my mind is'Do not let the perfect be the opponent of the excellent,'"said Commissioner Lori Stegmann. "If we had all the money

worldwide to have a first-class [shelter] and employ unlimited quantities of personnel we could quickly meet those best practices. But as we understand that is just not a truth ... provided exactly what you need to deal with, you are doing a significant job." County Animal Provider Director Jackie Rose, who had consulted with chosen commissioners prior to the meeting, said afterward she enjoyed with how it turned out. "I thought it was respectable, in fact. I think that we had a chance to share a few of our issues concerning the audit and the commisioners appeared to have an understandng of that so I found that to be favorable."March, a former lawmaker who is winding up his second term as Multnomah County Auditor, stated the board appeared to be encouraged by Rose's

primary message that her intents are great and they're doing the finest they can."I believe the board and Animal Solutions think they are doing better than the audit showed,"he said. "The case they're attempting to make is 'Well, we wanted to have the ability to do more things.' When we were out there we didn't see those more things occurring yet - and even the fundamentals."

The skeptical questioning by commissioners was directed entirely at the auditors. The only questions of animal services appeared developed to weaken auditors' findings.

To name a few things, Commissioner Sharon Meieran stated auditors cannot keep in mind the shelter's reunification rate was higher than the nationwide average, or highlight staffing modifications that happened after the audit was finished.

Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson echoed Meieran's questions of auditors. Commissioner Loretta Smith did not ask any concerns, and Chair Deborah Kafoury was missing.

The primary disagreements between the shelter management, commissioners and auditors fell in two areas.

Animal neglect

The auditors found that in certain locations within the shelter, such as where animals are put for adoption, they get little or no "enrichment," suggesting human contact that goes beyond feeding and cleaning up. This level of care is thought about a standard need of animals in the shelter community.

"When shelter animals do not get everyday enrichment, they are more most likely to experience long term tension, which can cause: Major medical issues, and/or Behavior problems that can make animals less safe in our community," the auditors composed.

However in the hearing, Rose argued that fundamental requirements were being satisified-- that is, if you consider just cleaning and feeding, but do not include enrichment.

"At no time does a single animal in our care not get the everyday care that it requires: cleansing, feeding watering. It does not take place," Rose said.

Commissioners were convinced by this argument. "We are meeting the fundamental requirements of the animals," Stegmann said throughout the hearing.

As far as enrichment, throughout the hearing Rose said, "I don't contest that there's a greater need for enrichment activities with the animals ... That is a location where we continue to construct and grow."

Files show that several personnel at the shelter informed auditors that pets were getting even less enrichment than previously, that the facility had no plan to try day-to-day enrichment for animals, let alone ensure it.

After the hearing, March said "basic requirements also includes enrichment and interaction with human beings on a regular basis, so the [animals] are ready to be embraced. That latter piece is truly thought about part of basic care and that is the part that seems to be falling off [and] not being done."

Short staffing

The auditors found that two-thirds of the time, the shelter did not have the required staffing to ensure that animals are getting their standard needs such as enrichment and likewise getting behavioral evaluations in a prompt fashion.

But commissioners, including Meieran, rather echoed Rose's point that after Rose was notified of the current audit findings, in just the last couple of weeks, the shelter utilized cash conserved by cutting a feral feline program to develop two animal care positions.

The conversation did not look into auditors' deeper concerns, that staff members who were supposed to be taking care of the animals were instead spending an excessive quantity of time cleansing-- even while volunteers who had actually asked to assist with the cleaning were rebuffed by shelter management.

"I think there is a presumption by management that the staffing resources are being released correctly," March stated after the conference. "And our review of what was occurring on the ground didn't seem to jibe with exactly what management believed."

Rose responds

Rose, after the conference, stated that staff who informed auditors that the shelter was mishandled, that training was poor or nonexistent, that over-aggressive pets were being embraced out without cautioning to the public, that morale had dropped even lower than it remained in 2016, and that enrichment for dogs had totally ceased in some aspects "are entitled to their viewpoint."

She said while there might be reality to a few of their perceptions-- such as that management does not want to utilize volunteers for cleaning-- she disagrees with other of their observations, a few of which she called false.

"Are a few of these things real? They may be. Is it meant? No. Is it that we don't care? No."TRIBUNE PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - County officials hope to replace the aging shelter facility in Troutdale as money becomes available.

She said a major personnel "upheaval"last fall added to the problems observed by March's personnel in their auditing work. Initially, Randall Brown, a top manager and assistant to Rose, was detained for utilizing his county credit card to embezzle more than $50,000 in county funds, purchasing gold bullion, knives and other survival equipment-- whatever from gas masks, beef jerky and rifle scopes. Two other leading managers resigned in brief order.

A number of staffers stay on prolonged leave, Rose said.

She defended her management technique and credentials, stating "This is not my first rodeo."