Animal shelter makes changes, detailed report released

Animal shelter makes changes, detailed report released

LAWTON, Okla._The City of Lawton has released a report conducted by the Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners following its investigation of Lawton's animal shelter.

In the 464-page report, investigators gave evidence of neglect, starvation and poor living conditions at the shelter. They also offered recommendations on how to improve conditions

The report was also critical of those who brought allegations against the shelter, claiming that they inflated and escalated the situation in the media and through social media reports.

Assistant City Manager Jim Russell said he was happy that the report identified the problems with the shelter that needed to be fixed. The head of the citizens group said she was disappointed the investigators spent so much time focusing on the actions and comments made by some residents who were critical of the shelter's staff.

The report identified five primary issues: a lack of supervision, which led to the death of one dog and the starvation of others; a need of repair for the facility as a whole; a focus on programs outside the mission of the shelter; a lack of administrative records and the failure to treat sick animals. The report also gave suggestions on how the shelter can improve.

Russell has been working at the shelter for nearly two months. He says that in that time, 75 to 80 percent of these improvements have already been implemented. He plans on using this report as a teaching tool.

"We went into it with the anticipation of seeing what did we fail to address already? What is there in here that we might have overlooked that we need to make sure we put into our plan going forward," said Russell.

Russell says some of these plans include further repairs and expansion of the facility, better cleaning methods to improve the overall health of the animals, more volunteer work and training and closer work with the rescues to improve adoption rates and vet care.

"My goal, my intent, is that by July 1, which is the start of our fiscal year, we will have 100 percent compliance of the violations that we've found and we can start the new fiscal year on a positive foot and not look back," Russell explained.

Russell said the city's response to the recommendations in the report is an ongoing process. He said more changes may be recommended once the city council, city manager and city attorney have had more time to analyze the report.

The report also included criticism of the Lawton Community for Humane Treatment of Animals Facebook group. It cited posts from members detailing threats of violence and personal attacks on animal shelter workers. Beverly Perry, the leader of the group, reacted to the report with this statement:

"I believe the report clearly was an effort to detract from the problems at the shelter by focusing on the citizens who reported the problems. I was not surprised as I have stated from the beginning that I believe that there is a conflict of interest. What did surprise me were the numerous misleading statements. There was a great deal of wasted effort on irrelevant, or completely inaccurate, information in the report. You can expect a full response to each of those statements, if not legal action."