Rescuers with area dog rescues and volunteers met with Mesquite City Manager Cliff Keheley and Assistant City Manager Raymond Rivas on June 20 to share their concerns about the Mesquite Animal Shelter and some changes in procedure that they’d like to see.
"We're in the middle of a strategic planning process; about four years ago we went through one, and it brought us a lot of changes to our shelter,” Keheley said.
The changes he noted included having a vet tech visit daily and the cat trap-neuter-release program, things that residents brought up.
The heavily discussed topic that afternoon was the issue with euthanasia and incidents in which dogs were being euthanized with compromise drugs.
"At no time did any of the employees bring any concerns of expired drugs to anyone outside of the shelter,” Keheley said.
He added that neither he nor Rivas were made aware of this allegation until recently.
"When things like that are brought up those are serious concerns, and we go through the investigative process,” he said.
The process he mentioned includes interviewing employees who are still with the shelter to find out what happened, the direction that was provided to them and if disciplinary action was needed and taken, as well as try to determine what to do to prevent that from happening in the future.
Keheley said they believe the incident regarding the euthanasia drug had to do with a shipment that was noted to have had discoloration on the edge of the bottle. He provided email correspondence between an animal control officer who reported something wrong to managing director of the Mesquite Animal Services Jeanne Saadi, and Saadi to the drug supplier.
"We contacted the supplier … they are the experts on their product, and they indicated to us that it was safe to use, we may need to use a little bit more,” Keheley said.
The drug used by the animal shelter is Fatal-Plus, a combination drug that is said to include a sedation element.
"We don't use a sedative on a regular basis because it can counteract the effectiveness of the Fatal-Plus drug, so we have strict criteria on when we would use something in addition,” Rivas said.
"We told all of the officers involved in euthanasia to note any problems. We had one officer advise that after five euthanasia that it was not performing and we needed to stop. That's when we removed the drug from practice and we requested a new shipment. The company shipped us a new batch, and we didn't have any problems,” Keheley said. "We have to depend on some expert advice sometimes, and what they were telling us was not correct. We now note, should there be anything that stands out visibly we're just not going to use that batch."
Rescuers brought up several concerns and areas they felt could be improved on. Several rescuers asked if there was a way for an employee to report something they see at the shelter anonymously because they said there are employees who are afraid of retaliation.
Keheley informed that there’s an ethics hotline, and the number can be found in the employee handbook as well as in the break room.
Rescuers also asked if there's a check and balance to euthanize a dog to ensure that every effort is made to give a dog the best chance of finding a home; keeping a paper record of employee complaints and concerns as opposed to just verbal communication; tagging and communication issues between the shelter and rescues; education for adopters and adopter accountability; dog aggression testing; better training for employees; possibly consider a separate sedation drug; and a way to document/log euthanasia to better track possible anomalies in the effectiveness.
Rivas said they're going to reevaluate their euthanasia procedure to see if there’s a way that they can standardize it.
"He (Keheley) appreciates the input that we received and feels that as we implement the new strategic plan, the rescue groups will provide great feedback," Rivas noted later. "We will definitely bring this group back together later this fall as we discuss changes to our ordinances."