Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Supporting The Truth--Whatever-The-Hell-It-Is

I swore that when I started this blog, I would refrain from anything political, but I've taken so much grief via email about my last post Politics that I couldn't resist but post a well written , thought out response (with permission) here:

"I read your blog about the THS article and just wanted to share my opinion as a long time volunteer/foster parent there. The story was completely sensationalized. Yes they are understaffed and disorganized, but the people there do amazing work and the animals are well taken care of.

All day every day negligent owners dump their "beloved" pets there when they are not able or willing to provide the necessary medical care. These animals are not kept alive to lower euthanasia rates for political agendas, nor are they thrown into a cage to die a slow agonizing death. I would encourage your readers to check out the Medical Miracles page of the THS website. While these are extreme cases, they are not rare.

As part of my role at the THS, I help take care and feed over 150 kittens in their clinic. Whenever I have seen a kitten in distress the vets do not hesitate to euthanize if they feel it is just a matter of time before they go. I have taken palliative fosters and the decision when to let them go was made by me - not management.

With over 500 animals in the shelter at any given time (they have close to 1100 right now!) it is an impossible task to keep cages and kennels pristine. The dogs are walked a minimum of 3 times a day. They do not live in filth as the pictures suggest.

I will not be protesting on June 20, instead I will be in the kitten nursery feeding and cuddling orphan kittens.

Yes the place needs changes, but I can go to sleep every night knowing that animals there receive more love, attention and medical treatment than their shitty owners gave them."

Let it be known that I'm supporting THE TRUTH - nothing less.

Today I was at the shelter and helped a young woman that wanted to save a 10 year old "nuttin' special" tabby. He has a forever home now. Tomorrow, I'm going to the shelter to rescue some more cats.

It might be a short term solution, but I'll leave it to the others on the bandwagon to resolve the long term solution. For now...it's me, 7 cat carriers and a full tank of gas.


Debbie said...

I do my little part by fostering cats and dogs. I like to think it is in some way helping these poor animals.
They didn't ask for this life, there owners made that decision for them!!

Christine Gittings said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I'm a volunteer kitten feeder at the THS also and agree whole heartedly with the post that you quoted. We've had a number of volunteers quit due to the recent press and sadly it'll be the animals who suffer and not the staff at the THS that they want replaced.
I too will continue volunteering there and not protest. If I can make sure that some kittens are fed, cuddled and their cages cleaned then I've accomplished what I set out to do.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Yes Beth, sad byproduct of bad publicity is that a lot of kitten feeders and volunteers are quitting. Short term pain for long term gain? Not acceptable when the pain is death due to lack of support. I am encouraging protestores to volunteer to kitten feed, but my quandry is that THS management is the same ones who ignored me when I tried to volunteer several times. Place is dysfunctional for sure. But glad some are staying for the animals.

David Consky said...

I'm in my fourth year volunteering in the kitten nursery at the THS on River Street. I have seen hard-working vet techs and animal care workers fired without replacement for what I can only assume are budgetary reasons. While those who remain go far beyond what can be expected of them, there are too few to appropriately care for more than a fraction of the animals. I’ve seen Have Vet Check signs on cages go unheeded and kittens dangerously covered in food and feces to the extent that the underlying flesh became necrotic. I never know what supplies I can expect to have available on any given day – we’ve had to scrounge for food, gowns, cleaning supplies and even clean towels on more than a few occasions, including this past weekend.

You say very casually that any kitten in distress is seen by the vets. As the THS is critically understaffed, the volunteers are the ones who see the kittens the most. Are you aware that the official procedure for bringing a kitten in distress to the attention of a vet requires us to first search the building for a supervisor who will then decide whether or not pull a vet from their current duties? The management has also told us that we are not allowed to speak to the vets directly as they are too busy. This results in too few critical kittens being seen and the level of concern the article indicates.

It’s clearly evident that the people that THS staff do their very best, but as you say they are understaffed and disorganized and are thus unable to care for the 1100 animals you mentioned, through no fault of their own. The intent of the article is to bring the light the reasons for which this is happening: the gross mismanagement of the THS staffing and funds. People should not be protesting the THS, but rather Tim Trow, responsible for the situation at hand. I will cross the picket line to feed the kittens in the nursery, but I will also continue to protest the current management in order to ensure proper care of the THS’ future surrenders.

Anonymous said...

I am the original poster in my email to Beth. My intent was not to defend Tim Trow or the policies that are in place. There clearly needs to be new leadship that has the ability to assess the needs of the shelter, staff and volunteers. It would be wonderful as a nursery volunteer to have a supervisor that has the time to check if we need more food, gowns etc, but the reality is that we don't. It would be great if they had somebody 24/7 to do laundry but they dont. The article implies that the THS does not have sufficient supplies, when in reality they do and we just need to track down a supervisor to get them.

I work late night shifts and often cover the overnight shift as well. I am there when the vet and vet tech make their final rounds for the evening. All the HVC's are checked. For whatever reason, they do not always remove the HVC forms. However, they do treat the cases that they believe warrant immediate attention. I truly hope that the upcoming training sessions cover the use of HVC's. The nursery volunteers need to learn how to use these forms more discriminately. The charts in the URI room are covered in HVC's that indicate "sneezing". Well duh - that is what they are in the URI room for. What a waste of time it must be for the vet to walk around checking charts to learn that URI kittens are sneezing. The other night a volunteer caused a panic by writing "distemper" on an HVC. How a volunteer feels it is appropriate to make a medical diagnosis is beyond me.

There is no excuse for kittens to be covered in formula or feces when there are signs posted all over the nurseries to clean faces, paws, chests and bums after feeding. This is pure laziness on part of some of the feeders. I fully understand why the no bathing policy is in place. Kittens can die from hypothermia very quickly and the last thing you want is an inexperienced or untrained volunteer putting the kittens at risk like this. I do bathe these kittens on my shift - and yes I received clearance from the supervisor staff just by asking.

I also understand why the policy is in place to find a supervisor before taking a kitten to the clinic. With the number of unnecessary HVC's written I can just imagine how many volunteers would be running back and forth interrupting vet staff because a kitten was congested. I have taken kittens that were truly in distress (non responsive, freezing cold, etc) or deceased directly to the clinic despite this policy. I have never been turned away or reprimanded.

The shelter needs new management and more staff. The volunteers need to receive better training. The Board needs to become accountable. However, by painting the THS as a bunch of animal abusers is only going to perpetuate the prolem by scaring good and qualified people away.

Anonymous said...

The “reality” is that we don’t need someone to come around all the time to check to see if we need supplies. If there were just a load of supplies left somewhere where we could find them, I would have no problem getting them myself. And in my experience, you cannot count on finding a supervisor when you need something, and you can count even less on them being able to get it for you in a reasonable time. Not because they are mean or negligent, but because that place is huge and there is a ton of important stuff, stuff that helps to keep the animals healthy, that is completely falling through the cracks.

But I have to disagree with you that there are always supplies – at the beginning of this season, they had forgotten to order KMR and we were using Mammalac, which the kittens hated and it became increasingly difficult to force feed them without aspirating them. A few months before that the vets were complaining that there wasn’t enough medication because no one had ordered it.

You say that there isn’t anyone to do laundry full time – maybe they should have fewer supervisors that literally supervise, or spend less money on litigation, and hire a few more vet techs or cleaners instead. It’s not as though someone has to stand in front of the washer for hours watching it spin – a simple calculation of how long it takes and a check back to turn the laundry over will suffice.

It’s not that HVC signs are ignored; it’s that there is not always something a vet can do for the cat immediately, and the lines of communication are so broken in that place. For example, I have seen this happen NUMEROUS times:

1. Vet checks a HVC saying “severe diarrhea”.
2. Vet asks for blood work.
3. HVC sign stays on the chart, I suppose as a reminder that blood work is needed.
4. A week passes – no one has come to take blood. 3 of the 7 kittens die.
5. Another HVC sign goes up saying “severe diarrhea, dehydrated?”
6. Vet makes another request for blood work and puts sub q fluids on the treatment sheet.
7. The blood work gets done that day.
8. Another 4 days pass, 3 more of the kittens die.
9. Another HVC sign goes up, saying “lethargic, severe diarrhea”.
10. HVC checks the chart, sees the blood work has come back and prescribes antibiotics. As the vet is writing what antibiotics to give the kitten, they turns to a volunteer and say, “just because I put it on the treatment sheet, it doesn’t mean we have the medication in the building, or that someone will give it to the kitten on time.”

It’s not always like that; please don’t think I’m saying that. On my last shift, Dr. Steve checked a HVC sign I had put up for kittens that literally had a constant stream of diarrhea coming out of them. He spoke to me about them, took a look at them, and went to get the medication to administer to them immediately – no waiting, no blood work, nothing. I was really happy it got taken care of in that timeframe. But the above-mentioned list of occurrences happens more frequently than I really think is necessary. With more vet techs or even just better protocol around communication between different parts of the care team, that could be avoided. And I simply do not believe there is not enough money for more cleaners or vet techs, I just think the THS spends money on things that it probably shouldn’t.

Anonymous said...

Could the volunteers use more training? Definitely. In fact, the volunteers have been asking for training for years, and there is finally two sessions set up. So that’s good. And yes, a lot of volunteers have no common sense – a problem that even training won’t help.

In terms of washing kittens, I don’t think it’s all about laziness. There is some diarrhea that no amount of wiping with a damp cloth will get out, even after just 4 hours (the time between shifts). I agree with you that the no bathing policy is a good one. For people with no common sense, it’s easy to kill a kitten by washing them. And I too wash the kitten thoroughly on my shift. I’ve had enough experience to do it, and I have also gotten clearance to do it from vets. The problem is that not enough volunteers can safely do this, so theoretically the vet techs are supposed to. Especially because during the busy season volunteers used to get yelled at for doing anything other than feeding (which included washing cages or kittens) because we were so behind on the feeding. If we’re not allowed to do it, then the THS needs to provide someone who can and will, because washing kittens and cleaning cages are an integral part of keeping illness at bay.

Can you honestly tell me that during your time at the THS you have never seen good, competent, and caring staff being intimidated or quitting because of poor treatment from the managers? Did you ever read a staff suspension letter? Did you know Shankar, Rowenna, Jessica or Ivanka?

I agree with this statement: “The shelter needs new management and more staff. The volunteers need to receive better training. The Board needs to become accountable.” I don’t think the point is about painting the THS as “a bunch of animal abusers”. But I do think it is important to show the practical results of mismanagement in order to get some changes made.