News 5 Investigates

Sep 5, 2013 11:09 PM by Andy Koen

Humane Society under pressure to remove manager

CANON CITY - The Humane Society of Fremont County has failed two consecutive state inspections and now employees and volunteers who used to work at the shelter are calling for a change in management.

The shelter is partly funded by public tax dollars through impound agreements with the City of Canon City, Fremont County and the City of Florence.

Pet Animal Care Facilities Act (PACFA) Inspectors with the Colorado Department of Agriculture cited the Humane Society for eleven separate violations of state standards related to the care of animals.

During the June 7 inspection, PACFA Inspector Cynthia Thompson noted that the surgery room was being used as both a cat intake area and an isolation area for sick cats with communicable diseases. Shelters are required to keep sick animals in area completely isolated from other animals.

In the July 22 follow up inspection, a kennel employee name Lisa told PACFA Inspector Kate Anderson that it was routine procedure to pressure wash the kennels while the dogs were still inside. She was also unaware of a policy to clean and sanitize water bowls when a new dog was placed there.

The same employee also indicated that animals had been destroyed the same day they arrived. State law requires shelters hold stray animals a minimum of 5 days.

Staci Scaravinni painfully learned firsthand about the prompt euthanizing when her blind cat went missing in July. Scaravinni says shelter workers lied to her she went there to look for her pet the next day by saying no cats had been brought in.

"My husband's in the background saying as long as she wasn't put down, she's alright? Oh no, no, that doesn't happen, it's just fine," Scaravinni said of her conversation with the shelter employees. She later learned the cat had been euthanized the very day it came in.

"It's upsetting to me that someone couldn't have stepped up when we went down and said look we messed up, the cat was put down, we're sorry," Scaravinni said. "They were willing to send me back home knowing that I was upset then at my neighbor, lying to our faces."

Inspector Anderson also determined the euthanasia procedures performed at the shelter don't meet American Veterinary Medical Association standards. Shelter veterinarian Dr. Michael Gangel was absent for most of the procedures, and an untrained employee name Ladonia was allowed to put animals down.

Ruth Stimack is president of the humane society board of directors. She gave us a tour of the facility and assured us they are fully compliant with state standards. She also said all kennel staff are now properly trained to euthanize animals.

"We believe in our shelter, we believe in what we're doing. We believe in our community that we're providing a good service for the community."

But Lisa's answers to Inspector Anderson about the kennel cleaning procedures and same day euthanasia procedures suggest she was unaware of shelter policy, state law or both.

Manager Tom Cameron is responsible for training those employees and told us they were reprimanded for euthanizing Scaravinni's cat.

"How that happened was a mistake and how that happened is not policy here, nor would we tolerate it," Cameron said. "They are reprimanded for such things like that."

Stimack asserted Cameron clearly made known the policies to his subordinates. However, employees who used to work at the shelter tell us Cameron isn't around very much.

Kyra Valdiserri worked at the Humane Society from January to April and said it was common for Cameron to spend his day running personal errands.

"I'd see them in the morning and Tom would say he's going to go run some errands and we'd never know when he'd be back," Valdisseri said. "He could be gone until we closed."

A shelter volunteer photographed Cameron repairing an air conditioner on his personal camper in the shelter parking lot last summer. The volunteer says the woman seen helping Cameron with the air conditioner is Lisa, the shelter employee interviewed by Inspector Anderson. Stimack says she is a board member.

When we questioned Cameron about it he said, "Yeah, yeah, day off. I was hangin out around here."

The time stamps show the photos were taken Saturday July 14, 2012 at 3:44 p.m. and 3:49 p.m.

Stimack says Cameron works Tuesdays through Saturdays. When we questioned her about the camper she said, "He's not on the clock, he's a manager. He puts in lots of extra time, lots of extra time."

The shelter has until Friday to comply with the state standards. As a rule, Department of Agriculture inspections are unannounced. The department can fine, penalize or ultimately suspend the license of the facility if it deems such action is appropriate. The Humane Society is currently considered a "high-risk" facility.

A group of pet owners, former employees and volunteers have created a Facebook page called "Stop the Fremont County Humane Society" to put public pressure on Stimack to remove Cameron as manager.

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