UPDATE 11/28/12 @ 6:15 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Less than two weeks after a live puppy was found in a trash bag by city workers at the Huntington-Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter, the shelter is getting a vote of confidence by the Wayne and Cabell County Commissions.
Cabell County Administrator Chris Tatum says that puppy was euthanized by trained staff under protocol conditions. It's unfortunate the animal was found alive, but sometimes death by euthanasia is not immediate.
Wednesday, in the wake of a public relations nightmare, the agency is calling attention to the positive changes made at the shelter -- since a management shakeup last spring.
Both commissions on Wednesday pledged their continued support and vote of confidence in Director Jim Cumm.
“They have done a remarkable job in the past year. The county couldn't afford what they've done, the city couldn't afford what they've done,” said Wayne County Commission President Bob Paisley. “They have really stepped up to help and we are behind this director and this staff 100 percent. We want this animal control shelter to be successful in the job it set out to do."
Since Cumm took over as head of the shelter, euthanasia rates are down dramatically.
Last year, the number of animals euthanized at the shelter was more than 6,000. This year, as of Wednesday, that number has dropped to 1,793.
That means adoption rates have improved, and it's got the county commissions taking notice.
"We stand by what's happening at this shelter," Tatum said.
But not every one is happy.
Beverly O'Dell is the former Volunteer Coordinator who has now resigned.
“Twice this month, alone, they've euthanized all the cats and kittens in the cattery adoption room with the exception of three kittens one of the staff members took home,” O’Dell said. “It's sad, it's truly sad that many animals lost their lives because they're not following training protocol that a trained veterinarian that was the medical director gave them specific instructions on how to do."
Veterinarian Dr. Jacqueline Chevalier resigned from her post as medical director this past summer. In a statement to WSAZ, Chevalier wrote:
"Just to clarify I resigned around the end of August/beginning of September, because I didn't see them following the protocols I had worked so hard to implement as well as the extensive bill they have acquired. Since then I have seen them trying to improve. I spoke with Chris Tatum earlier this week and have been set up on a payment plan and said I would be willing to work with them again if they can work within the protocols established. Because of the improvements I have seen more recently I will be considering returning if they can work on services currently outstanding. I do not think as a whole it is as bad as some people say but it is not as good as it should be. I do see them trying, donations would be helpful so they could afford the improvements that need to be done."
The issue has sparked concern among shelter volunteers.
Shelter administrators say the pup had parvo and had to be euthanized. However, it somehow survived the euthanasia.
"It's terrible that that happened,” Cabell County Administrator Chris Tatum said. “There's not a person that can say they would enjoy seeing that happen, myself included. So, I think what folks need to remember is … there is a lot of education that goes along with knowing what goes on in an animal control shelter."
On May 22, administrators put up signs that the shelter would be closed until the disease was cleared-up and the shelter could be disinfected, The hope was to reopen on June 4, but that did not happens as administrators said they needed another 10 days to be absolutely sure the shelter was distemper free.
On Thursday, the shelter director told WSAZ.com they're confident the disease is gone.
Director Jim Cumm says some protocols have changed to make sure all cats and dogs coming in or going out of the shelter are healthy. For starters, the shelter will increase holding times before animals are up for adoption.
On Thursday several animals were adopted.
The shelter is open Monday through Friday from 10 to 4-30.
Crews at the shelter tell WSAZ.com that the shelter will not reopen for another 10 days.
Jim Cumm tells WSAZ.com that they want to make absolutely sure that every animal in the shelter is distemper free before they reopen.
The shelter was shut down two weeks ago after an outbreak of distemper. The shelter had to put down 75% of the pets after the outbreak.
Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.
The shelter could reopen as early as the beginning of next week.
Cabell County Administrator Chris Tatum tells WSAZ.com they hope to have the shelter back up and running on Monday, June 4.
He says they are still doing some last minute checks with health officials to make sure everything has been decontaminated after a distemper outbreak.
Since the outbreak, the shelter has been closed and they have stopped adopting pets.
Several pets had to be euthanized after the outbreak.
Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.
The shelter will be closed to the public until early June.
The shelter's medical director, Dr. Jacqueline Chevalier, says several dogs were euthanized at the shelter. She also had to euthanize one dog at her practice.
Cabell County Manager Chris Tatum says the virus also has sickened kittens and puppies at the shelter.
The sick animals have been quarantined.
Tatum says employees will remain on the job and will continue to pick up animals. But precautions are being taken because distemper can be spread to humans.
Jim Cumm, the new director of the Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter, is already dealing with a heavy load plus some recently added stress.
The shelter could face a possible funding cut of nearly one-third of its budget for the next year. But, Cumm isn't one to overreact, and he's handling this latest curve ball in stride.
“The cat room has been moved,” Cumm said.
Ten days on the job and he already has made some big changes to the Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter.
“We’re converting it into a living room and making it a place where people can bring the animals and try them out,” Cumm said.
He is new to animal control, but he's not new to loving animals and the basic concept of running a county facility. He arrived here from the Waves of Fun wave pool in Putnam County.
“Setting up a budget -- those are all the same," Cumms said. "You gotta pay bills and you gotta pay staff, so that's not a real issue.”
But managing the budget may become a big issue. On Monday, the Huntington City Council voted to approve a budget for the coming year that eliminates its share of funding to the shelter -- $100,000 or nearly a third of the shelter's funding.
“I don't know how we could keep the doors open or pay the staff; that's 80 to 90 percent of the budget,” Cumm said.
Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe said, "It's not my intent for the funding to be cut. It was restored this fiscal year, and I expect it to be next fiscal year, too.”
Cumm said one of his priorities is to improve public service. On Tuesday, that commitment literally paid off when he spent quite a bit of time with a man looking for the perfect house cat.
“He was excited about the cat he found," Cumm said. "He paid $50 for the cat and $450 for the good customer service."
And he has the photo to prove it.
Cumm said he needs more staffing quickly. He received good news from the board Wednesday that he can hire two full-time temporary animal attendants until at least the end of this fiscal year ending in June.
He promises many exciting new plans are on the horizon.
Monday the shelter's Board of Directors named Jim Cumm as its new shelter director.
Mr. Cumm had been the Director of Pools and Activities for the Putnam County Parks and Recreation System. He also worked for the Lincoln County Park System for nine years.
He will be in charge of the day-to-day operations for the shelter as well as the annual budget with Board of Directors approval.
"After an extensive interview process, Mr. Cumm was clearly the right choice to continue the positive changes taking place at the shelter," President of Cabell County Commission Nancy Cartmill said.
President of Wayne County Commission, Bob Pasley, said, "Jim's understanding of obtaining grants and his ability to implement change will greatly benefit the shelter, our citizens and the animals."
Mr. Cumm has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Parks and Recreation from Marshall University.
Monday Mr. Cumm told WSAZ.com, "I want to re-establish a nice public service for the community and there's a long way to go. There's a lot of challenges to overcome."
Mr. Cumm replaces Anita Asbury, who was removed in January.
The shelter is currently under investigation to determine whether any funds were misappropriated under Asbury's leadership.
Reports say the shelter's board decided to consult with the Huntington Police Department because the facility's financial records are in disarray.
The board removed longtime director Anita Asbury in January. Cabell County Manager Chris Tatum has been overseeing improvements at the shelter since then.
Police Chief Skip Holbrook says his department will consult with the prosecuting attorney after the investigation is completed to decide whether charges should be filed.
The Cabell County Prosecutor's Office and the Security Office at the courthouse organized a supply drive to help meet some of the needs at the animal shelter.
Cabell County Administrator Christopher Tatum says this doesn't solve all the problems at the shelter but this meets an immediate need.
“This certainly helps a limping organization get up and walk a little easier,” said Tatum
Donations included food, newspapers, cleaning supplies and cat litter.
The Cabell-Wayne Animal Control Board terminated four shelter employees Thursday. They say it's all in an effort to take the facility into a new, more efficient direction.
“I think it was a constant number of concerns that led to yesterday,” Chris Tatum said.
Tatum is the Cabell County administrator speaking on behalf of the three-member animal control board. He says the board fired four people including the director, the second in command, a kennel worker and a receptionist -- largely because of bad customer service.
“We don't have complaints anymore about phones not being answered or no answer to calls about a vicious animal,” Tatum said.
Money and staffing were also issues.
“When they took a look at the staffing levels, (they) realized (it was) overstaffed in some areas. The board decided it wanted to take a look at their last few audits, and the state hadn't even finished their last audit because certain information hadn't been provided and things of that nature,” Tatum said.
“Mommy, he’s so cute!” Kendall Sanders exclaimed as she saw a potential pet dog on Friday.
She and her sister want a dog, and they've found several strong contenders. Their mom is a regular patron of the shelter and only sees one opportunity of improvement.
“I think they could do a better job of letting people know what they have here -- big dogs, small dogs and that children can come here to get a pet and not just the pet store,” Beth Sanders said.
“Yeah, you could say there’s a bit of a PR problem,” Tatum said.
But, the board has already been working on facility improvements including new paint, new tile to replace old carpet and concrete pads for outdoors kennels.
“We want to re-instill confidence that this is the place to come to get your animal,” Tatum said.
The animal control board is made up of Huntington's mayor and the presidents of the Cabell and Wayne county commissions.
"Board members decided they wanted to have a new director, so they relieved Anita Asbury from her duties today, so the search for a new director is on," Cabell County Manager Chris Tatum told WSAZ.com.
Tatum said the board -- which is made up of the president of the Cabell County Commission, president of the Wayne County Commission and the Mayor of Huntington -- felt like the shelter wasn't moving in the right direction, so the relieved Asbury of her duties.
Three other employees -- a woman who handled billing and receiving money, and two receptionists -- were also terminated Thursday.
Tatum tells WSAZ.com the shelter has enough employees to take care of animals, payroll and day to day operations for the time being.
Earlier in the week, Asbury made the board aware she would be leaving in 45 days, according to Tatum.
Tatum did not give any indication as to why the decision was made, other than the board was not happy with the direction the shelter was going.