Boston’s troubled city-run animal shelter had descended into such chaos and disrepair last month that inspectors found a biting-prone dog had been put in a quarantine cage with a hole so large the animal could stick its head out and snap.
The day a team of 16 inspectors visited, every cage contained urine or feces, according to an assessment by the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Shelter staff reported that their colleagues were unduly rough on animals and that inhumane treatment of dogs and cats was routine. The pound in Roslindale was so disorganized that staff members did not know that they had a sea gull with both wings obviously broken in a holding cage in the basement.
“Animals are suffering in the extreme,” the 31-page assessment noted in the executive summary. “As currently resourced, the facility cannot provide adequate care for the animals by any minimum standard.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration requested the independent review last month after the Animal Rescue League discovered extensive mismanagement and neglect at the pound. The city launched an investigation, moved scores of animals to other shelters, and suspended the director of animal control.
The Animal Rescue League made dozens of recommendations to fix the shelter, ranging from the rudimentary (remove feces from cages on an hourly basis) to the macro (transfer or euthanize all animals not legally required to be held in the city shelter until the facility can adequately care for its charges).
The most significant suggestion was that the shelter dramatically increase staffing. According to the report, there were two to three people working each day to care for an average of 70 animals. The National Animal Care & Control Association recommends staff members spend a minimum of 15 minutes a day with each animal, which includes six minutes for feeding and nine minutes for cleaning. To meet those basic standards, the city would need an additional four or five full-time shelter attendants, an assistant manager, and part-time workers for the front desk. The report did not specify how much the additional staffing would cost and the city did not provide an estimate.
“We’re taking a hard look at staffing levels and evaluating the best way to provide appropriate staffing for the shelter and its needs,” said Walsh’s press secretary, Kate Norton, in an e-mail. “The mayor is committed to increasing staffing if necessary,” she wrote.
‘One dog was bouncing from wall to wall so repetitively that there was blood on walls from wear on the nails.’
The city has also discarded old medication, added more areas for animals to exercise, and initiated training for shelter employees, Norton said. Officials have begun using a “playtime evaluation form” to determine how an animal responds during walks to assess overall wellness. The city is also pushing to expedite dangerous dog hearings to avoid unnecessary stays in the shelter.
The former director of animal control, Mark Giannangelo, remains suspended with pay while the city moves to fire him, Norton said. Giannangelo could not be reached Monday for comment.
The newly appointed interim director of animal control, John Meaney, has taken immediate steps to correct problems in the shelter, said Mary Nee, president of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, in a cover letter included with the report.
“Most importantly, all animals that were identified as needing immediate medical attention have received treatment,” Nee wrote in the letter dated July 17.
The assessment described a cluttered facility in disarray. Paper and unused equipment sat on every surface. There were ample closets, but the two that were opened by inspectors contained only a few random boxes.
There was no soap. Paper towel dispensers were empty. A sink designated for hygienic washing before surgery was used for grooming. Shelves were filled with expired medication, outdated food, and dented cans, a leading cause of botulism poisoning, according to the report. The facility was at double its dog capacity. A fire alarm that needed batteries beeped regularly, agitating dogs already under intense stress.
“One dog was bouncing from wall to wall so repetitively that there was blood on walls from wear on the nails,” the report state.
The staff did not seem to be familiar with the animals, and some record keeping was sloppy and unorthodox.
“The information about the dog’s behavior in the computer is often subjective,” report noted, “and open to interpretation such as ‘acting crazy.’ ”