Thursday, April 15, 2004

Is shelter quick to kill cats?

Investigation doesn't back up allegations

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEBANON - For nearly a year, former board members of the Warren County Humane Association have questioned whether the shelter was needlessly killing cats.

Now, after the shelter's internal investigation came to no conclusion on the allegations, they say they fear they will never know for sure.

"I'm sickened to think that it could still be going on," says former board President Wendy McAdams. "I hope there's enough public knowledge about what could be going on that people get involved with the shelter, and that the expanded shelter will allow them to keep more cats."

The shelter's attorney, James V. Heath, announced Tuesday night that his investigation, begun last May, showed more adoption cages were needed to keep up with the thousands of cats being turned into the shelter off Ohio 48. He drew no conclusions about the validity of the claims, including one allegation that several cats were still alive when put into garbage bags.

The former board members, who quit after these allegations were made last May, say it wasn't a question of whether more cages were needed. They argue that the real question was why some cages at the shelter and at Petsmart sat empty when adoptable cats could have been put there.

"It's just unfortunate for the animals," said former board member Debbie Hockenbery, who described the investigation as "fluff and number-shuffling."

Executive Director Mari Lee Schwarzwalder said there are more adoption cages than holding cages, where animals are observed for seven to 10 days after being dropped off. Because of lag time, some of those adoption cages might sit empty, she said Wednesday.But she has continually denied any wrongdoing at the shelter.

The shelter's 11,150-square-foot expansion is nearly complete, and association officials hope the extra space will allow them to house more animals. About 73 percent of the cats and dogs turned in to the shelter last year were euthanized; the national rate is 64 percent.

While Tuesday's three-hour-plus meeting drew plenty of debate and accusations, the board did not come to any resolution on what happens next.

Several members expressed hope that they would now focus on other issues, including continuing fund raising to pay off the $2.8 million expansion and future operating costs.

"My conclusion is that it's all speculations," current board President Cherie Walker said. "This will probably never be resolved because (former shelter employees) refused to give statements. ... But if I ever thought anything illegal, unethical or wrong was going on, I would bring it up right away."


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