Report: Lufkin animal shelter used improper cleaning, feeding procedures

Report: Lufkin animal shelter used improper cleaning, feeding procedures
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 2:42 PM CDT|Updated: May. 10, 2023 at 8:38 PM CDT
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LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - A consultant contracted by the city of Lufkin found rampant animal mistreatment to be among the main concerns at Lufkin Animal Services (LAS).

Susan Feingold has over fifteen years of animal services consulting experience and a background as an animal services director. She was contracted in response to complaints about management from volunteer workers. Her 153-page report on LAS, also known as Kurth Memorial Animal Services, lists the many areas in need of attention from the city. The mistreatment of animals is among the most disturbing of these problems.

The report detailed several animal care practices at LAS that can cause harm and death. Feingold found that animals are being fed only once per day, including kittens and underweight animals which require three meals per day, and starved animals which can develop the potentially fatal “refeeding syndrome” if not fed multiple small meals per day for the first week. Additionally, animals are not being provided with veterinary care during their initial three-day hold, including pain medication, unless they are suffering from life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

“We understood in many of our processes that there were things that we needed to update. One, is in the approach that we take or the policy we had for how we feed the animals, how many times we fed them a day and those are all part of the changes we are making,” Lufkin Mayor Mark Hicks said.

Cleaning and sterilization of the shelter is far under par as well, according to the report.

“During observations, LAS did not clean and disinfect any area of the shelter properly. This is not meant as a criticism of the kennel staff members, who all were working very hard to clean each of the 64 areas, but is due to a lack of proper policies and lack of enforcement of policies,” Feingold said.

The report also states that staff were mixing solutions that caused a strong odor and could be harmful to the animals. Hicks said kennels are now only cleaned with a solution called “Rescue” and proper cleaning protocols and techniques have to be performed by staff.

“They weren’t the best chemicals or the best solutions that were needed to most effectively sanitize the kennels. We had an issue with distemper outbreak, parvo is an ongoing issue, and we were looking for ways to keep that from happening,” Hicks said.

Another issue was only half of the kennels were being used for cleaning reasons. During the study 14 dog kennels at the shelter were unoccupied. Not using those kennels resulted in fewer animals being taken in.

Interim Animal Shelter Director Morgan Williams said that was done to make cleaning easier on staff. They will now place more kennels outside for dogs to be moved to while cleaning.

“We just got ten 10x10 cages for the back for dogs to get moved into while we’re cleaning so we can start using all of the rows that are in the adoption building,” Williams said.

This allows them to take in about 20 more dogs. Animals also were being kept outside and the report states that they were susceptible to freezing temperatures. These open kennels will allow all dogs to be kept inside.

Two holding compartments at LAS that were found visibly unclean.
Two holding compartments at LAS that were found visibly unclean.(Susan Feingold)

This apparent management issue largely contributes to an abnormally high rate of sick animals. Feingold mentioned that the disease known as parvo is common at LAS, and based on her experience with the sickness, appears to be contracted and spread at the shelter rather than before intake.

The report also noted vaccinations were not done on intake which can lead to disease outbreaks. Vetting also wasn’t done unless an animal was severely sick and even then, not until three days after the initial intake.

Williams said vaccines are now given upon intake, and if any animal seems sick no matter the severity, they are taken to a contracted veterinarian.

Feingold said that LAS is very underfunded, with a 2022 budget of about $700,000 compared to similarly populated shelters with budgets around $1.3 to $1.5 million. Proper funding from the six jurisdictions served by LAS would be the first step to proper care for their animals.

More funding would allow for a larger, better trained staff who could feed animals correctly and give veterinary attention as needed. If better cleaning policies were properly enforced, animals would not be euthanized for space, and far fewer would contract and spread sicknesses that warrant death.

Feingold urged that the city take the necessary steps to protect their animal population.

A consultant contracted by the city of Lufkin found rampant animal mistreatment to be among the main concerns at Lufkin Animal Services (LAS).