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E-mail details advocates’ concern over shelter conditions

At the shelter, Camilla was gaunt, dehydrated, and had open sores on her body.

Animal Rescue League of Boston

At the shelter, Camilla was gaunt, dehydrated, and had open sores on her body.

The following is the text of an e-mail sent June 30 from Martha M. Smith to Mary Nee, both of the Animal Rescue League of Boston. The organization discovered such troubling conditions in the Roslindale pound that it warned the city the shelter was in crisis.

For a long period of time staff at ARL has had concerns with Boston Animal Control’s shelter. The animals do not appear to be well cared for and they seem to be highly stressed. General ongoing concerns include:

• Dogs having the appearance of being drenched in their runs during cleaning (meaning the dogs are not removed from their runs when they are being hosed – this is an UNACCEPTABLE in the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters)

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• A complete lack of bedding

• A complete lack of toys or feeding devices for enrichment purposes

• Insufficient staffing levels

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• Unacceptably loud due to dog barking (a reflection of stress levels)

• All dogs exhibiting stereotypical behaviors of stress

• “Stray” dogs are not allowed to be leash walked or put out in the outdoor runs. Once a dog is labeled a “stray” dog, it is always considered a stray dog, regardless of how long they are resident in the shelter.

• Cats are kept in the loud dog room, with no beds or hide boxes, only a single sheet of newspaper. In my observations, when I have been there, the newspaper and cage was soaking wet from overturned water bowls.

• Empty soap and paper towel dispensers

• There is a French Bulldog that has been in residence since March or April with a large visible tumor

This past Friday, our Boston shelter manager and behavior counselor/dog trainer went to BAC to evaluate 4 dogs that had been recently released from a 2.5 year long law enforcement hold in the facility. One dog in particular, Camilla, was in profoundly poor condition.

• She was a body condition score of 2 out of a possible 9 on the Purina Body condition scoring system. This is the second to worst score on the chart “Too thin: Ribs, lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones easily visible. No palpable fat. Some evidence of other bony prominence. Minimal loss of muscle mass.

• She had open bleeding sores on her body. There was a thin coating of blood smeared within her kennel from cracked and bleeding pressure sores and ear flap sores.

• She weighed 24# on admission to our shelter on Friday. She has already gained 1.5# in 3 days. This reflects either weight gain from water consumption (if she was dehydrated on intake), or from food consumption. Our staff veterinarian thinks that her body condition score has already improved to a 3/9, or very close to it.

• When Camilla was removed from the cruelty scene in December of 2011, her weight was 31.8# with a 4/9 body condition score (normal).

• She displayed stereotypical behavior in the BAC shelter that did not improve with a trial of Prozac. There are other medications and more importantly husbandry & enrichment methods that can prevent dogs from going “kennel crazy”. It does not appear that other medication or management approaches were attempted.

• The Mather Street dogs were considered “stray” dogs for 2.5 years. This means they were never removed from their kennels.

• On Friday, there was only two kennel staff to care for an estimated 40 dogs and 10 cats. One employee was out sick. Visitors were observed coming in to look for a pet to adopt, but they left quickly after arriving. “I wouldn’t have stayed either, it is loud” was the comment from one observer. The visitors were greeted but then left to their own devices. There was no assistance to help them find an adoptable animal. One of the BAC employees cried with relief when ARL staff returned to take Camilla.

• There are 5 4-week old puppies being raised in the shelter, despite the known incidence of parvo virus in the shelter. It is inappropriate to allow such young puppies to be raised in the shelter and to run loose in common areas of the shelter where they are likely to encounter doses of infectious disease that can easily be lethal to such young puppies.

We will be accepting the other 3 Mather St dogs for transfer as soon as our capacity allows. We would like to offer to do an evaluation of the BAC shelter, and provide ongoing management advice, if the City can invest in appropriate staffing for adequate management of the facility. We have known of the management deficiencies, but Camilla’s condition was a horrifying revelation of how very bad conditions are. I would consider the BAC shelter to be in crisis.

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