Animal Care and Control criticized in city report

Posted at 7:55 PM, Jan 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-29 19:55:00-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--The City Auditor’s office released a scathing report that focuses this time on the city’s department of Animal Care and Control. 

The report reveals more animals are being put down, officers are slow to respond and the department has mishandled thousands of dollars.

"The problem with running dogs, you never know when you're going to get a response,” Thomas Larkin says that response time to his neighborhood is slow when it comes to calling animal control.

"On a good day, they may come out an hour or two after the call,” he said.

As President of the Greater Woodstock Area Civic Association, Larkin said residents have given him an earful of complaints about dogs roaming this neighborhood.

"Especially, if they're pitbulls. It's very intimidating.  It can really scare folks.  We have a lot of senior citizens in our neighborhood,” Larkin said.

Richmond's Animal Care and Control needs to do a better job managing response times, according to the City Auditor's latest report,

The report shows that only 31 percent of complaints were responded to within 20 minutes or less.

But 69 percent of those complaints were well over that timeframe, in fact some of those calls didn’t get a response until the next business day.

We took the numbers to the department's acting operations manager, Check Marchant.

He said that he doesn’t believe there has been any danger.

“I do want to emphasis we haven't had any instances where it has been a public risk for people,” he said.

Marchant said high turnover and the time it takes to train new officers are the reasons for the response times.

That’s little comfort for homeowner Frank Harmon, who’s had a problem with aggressive dogs.

"Periodically, I do get a little concerned when I have to come here to get my mail because I never know if they're out here, or if they're gone,” he said. .

The audit report also points out the increased number of animals euthanized. The number of euthanizations went up by 500, from 2011 to 2012.

"The animals that are coming into our shelter, maybe never got any medical care whatsoever.  And many cases haven't been properly socialized.  So, it's harder for us to place those animals,” said Marchant.

Marchant also said that some of those animals are in such bad shape that they had to put them down because they could be a risk to residents or other animals.  But he said animal adoptions went up 20 percent last year.

The report also said that during the fiscal year of 2012, Animal Control officers worked more than 750 hours of overtime.  A sample of those hours showed at least 210 of them were not recorded or submitted to management for approval.

The states this equates to $6,466 of unverifiable overtime, meaning that some employees may have been paid for hours they didn’t actually work.

The report also shows the money the department collects from citizen for fines and fees should be deposited weekly.

But nine months’ worth of fines and fees were deposited all at once, totaling $48,658.The City Auditor says that money had the potential to be stolen from the shelter at almost any time during that period.

And finally, the report reveals that the department is not collecting money it’s owed.  The city requires pet owners pay a $10 fee every year, and estimates indicate that there are 90,000 pets in Richmond.

But last year, the department only collected $13,000 in fees for 1300 pets, leaving tens of thousands of dollars uncollected by the department.

Click on the video for Sandra Jones’ full report.