Audit Blasts County's Animal Control Office

October 10, 1990|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

The county auditor nicked the county's animal control office 30 times in a report filed last month with the council and the executive.

The awarding of contracts, especially those for picking up dead animals, was criticized as particularly lax. The auditor also reported minimal training, animal adoption problems, computer software malfunctions and low morale.

The administration said it will correct most of the problems cited in the report.

Of 186 animal pickups for which the county paid $6,295, the auditor could find pickup sheets for only 94. And those "were often incomplete," reported Brenda Dean, who conducted the September 1990 audit on behalf of county auditor Ronald S. Weinstein. Documenting information "could not be found at all for four entire months," Dean reported.

"Many instances were noted where the animal was not found," Dean said, yet "full payment was made for what was supposed to be there."

Dean said the previous contractor advised the county he had not picked up any dead livestock in 10 years and recommended that livestock not be included in the bidding. Yet three months later, the contract was awarded to a new low bidder "with livestock being the deciding factor," Dean said.

County administrator Buddy Roogow told the auditor the county would change its bidding procedure to eliminate livestock and would not pay for pickups unless they were documented.

Animal control administrator Tahira Williams said the "appropriate changes" recommended by the auditor have been made and that those things which were "misunderstood" have been "reiterated to the appropriate people.

"The facility is running a lot smoother than it has in the past," Williams said. "We have a much more competent staff and are expanding services."

Most of the employees at animal control have been on the job for less than two years, Dean said, and want training in self-defense and law enforcement.

"More than one warden stated that if there was one reason they would leave their job, it would because they may be placed in dangerous situations without the proper training," Dean said.

Wardens told Dean they needed handguns, tranquilizer guns, customized vans, and two-way headsets to protect themselves.

Dean recommended the county give the wardens everything but the handguns.

The county said it would supply the vans and the headsets, but not the tranquilizer guns.

Roogow said the availability of training is "very limited." Most animal training is "acquired on the job" working with more experienced wardens, Roogow said.

"Self-defense training is not a necessity," Roogow added, because there have been "no instances where wardens have been physically attacked," and because "wardens are not frequently placed in dangerous situations."

Roogow agreed to allow employees to get pre-exposure rabies shots before beginning field work. Dean had noted that two unprotected wardens needed nine rabies shots after they were sent out to capture a rabid fox.

Dean said wardens "clearly felt pressure" from animal control administrator Williams to issue citations for violation of animal control laws and that the number of tickets issued was indicative of job performance. Dean recommended that tickets not be related to job performance and that the county inform all wardens to issue tickets "only when appropriate."

Roogow disagreed, saying wardens who issue "a significantly lower number of citations than do other wardens, are quite likely not performing satisfactorily."

To help with morale, Dean recommended the county's personnel office address specific employee concerns in a training session on the county's grievance procedure.

Roogow responded that the 12 employees working under animal control officer Williams, except for two clerk typists, are "members of a union bargaining unit and are fully aware of the grievance procedure."

Dean also flagged the animal control office for not following its own operations manual. For example, every person adopting a pet from the animal shelter is to leave a deposit of $10 to $40 to assure two things: that the animal would be neutered and that it would be given rabies shots (A new law requires rabies shots before the animal leaves the shelter).

If those things were not done by a specified date, the deposit was to be forfeited and the animal returned to the shelter.

"Our review indicates adopters are being contacted anywhere from seven months to two years and four months after the spay/neuter deadline," Dean wrote, leaving "$17,285 in spay/neuter deposits" which will "probably never be refunded." Thus, "somewhere between 432 to 1,728 adopted animals . . .

presumably have not been spayed/neutered or their owners decided not to pursue their refund," Dean said.

Dean also criticized animal control for spending $6,900 on a computer software program in which "significant options of the modules do not function and are therefore not used." Dean suggested the county make sure the new software it is seeking will do the job it is supposed to do.

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