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Volunteers say Henderson animal shelter is ‘chronically understaffed’

Volunteers from the Henderson Animal Care and Control are asking the city for more funding and support, highlighting bad conditions for the animals and workers at the shelter.

“I do believe the facility is chronically understaffed, to the point where there are safety issues for workers and animals, and welfare issues for the animals as well,” former volunteer Scott McIntyre said in public comment at a Nov. 7 City Council meeting.

McIntyre and several shelter volunteers spoke before the council, asking the city to help the animal shelter with lack of staff and deteriorating conditions. McIntyre said in his comment that he had resigned from his volunteer position two weeks before the meeting because of the issues at the shelter.

Danielle Harney, the director of Henderson Animal Care and Control, said staff members, volunteers and she all regularly work in different roles at the shelter when people do not come into work.

“We really have kind of a skeleton crew of people here at the shelter, because we haven’t added on additional personnel over the years,” Harney said. “So if someone does call out sick or someone does go on vacation, we are pretty much immediately short staffed and require other staff or volunteers to really help take care of the animals during that time.”

Harney said the lack of staff often leads to dogs staying in kennels for hours, sometimes longer than 24 hours.

Staying locked in small spaces for long periods of time can hurt the dogs physically and mentally. Volunteers said high-energy dogs scratched at the inside of kennels until they bled and some dogs accidentally bit volunteers after being let out because the dog was over excited.

But shelter volunteer Caren Solberg said hundreds of volunteers are registered to help at Henderson Animal Care and Control.

“I really think this is a city issue, because when you have 200 volunteers and you can only get maybe one person on a shift to show up, that’s problematic,” Solberg said. “And the shift is half a day. That’s a direct result of how unsafe it is in there.”

Solberg and other volunteers said the concrete in and around the facility has been notoriously slippery, especially when the floor is wet from the hoses used to clean the kennels inside.

But the safety issues do not end with the animals or construction issues at the shelter, according to some volunteers.

They said irate people dropping off pets resulted in staff having to call the police multiple times, despite the shelter technically being a part of the Henderson Police Department.

Fran Jaqcues, another volunteer at the shelter, said staffing has improved since many volunteers voiced their grievances at the Nov. 7 City Council meeting, but noted that core issues still persist.

Harney said the Henderson Police Department already hired two new employees who will start work at the end of November and two more are going through background checks.

The city also contracted an outside consulting firm to assess the shelter’s needs for staffing and upkeep.But some volunteers do not think the city needs an outside assessment to help the animal shelter.

“I think this whole concept of a consultant is just a delay tactic. It’s ridiculous. The shelter is 30 years old. You need a consultant to tell you that kennels are a quarter of the size they need to be or that the cement is and has no grip?” Solberg said. “I mean, that’d be like hiring a consultant to determine that the sky is blue.”

Harney said the shelter is expecting the assessment to finish this year and to present the results to the City Council in January.

Contact Mark Credico at mcredico@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Instagram @writermark2.

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