State Closes Safe Harbor Animal Shelter For Poor Conditions
The state of Missouri has filed a restraining order and a petition against Safe Harbor Animal Shelter (SHAS) in Jackson, Mo. The restraining order issued Oct. 30 stops the no-kill facility from accepting and adopting out animals for 30 days.
Attorney General Chris Koster, in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, found SHAS violated the Animal Care Facilities Act. According to a press release from the Attorney General, SHAS is being sued for:
· Repeatedly failing to take sick animals to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment;
· Failing to follow Animal Care Facilities Act.at housing requirements;
· Failing to maintain clean housing facilities;
· Failing to properly identify the animals;
· Failing to maintain health records of the animals.
“Every time they [The Department of Agriculture] inspected, they found something wrong and every inspection we’ve corrected it,” Safe House director Alice Wybert said. “Everything for the last two years is listed that is wrong but there is nothing about it being corrected. It looks like we just said ‘ehh, who cares.’ We corrected things.”
The petition list cases when animal welfare officials required the facility to take sick cats to a veterinarian but later the facility could not provide documentation of a vet examination or a death certificate.
“A lot of times when a cat is euthanized the record is there at the vet’s office and I have gotten them,” Wybert said.
Wybert said the facility is maxed out and is housing more than 200 cats and dogs. According to the lawsuit, officials found 27 cats in room one, 30 cats in a second room, 33 in a third room and 29 in a fourth room on Sept. 24. Regulations state no more than 12 adult cats can be placed in a room together, unless they are conditioned.
“We have an enormous building and when we built this, according to their standard, each room could house 50 cats,” Wybert said.
She said officials could not clarify what the term conditioned and unconditioned means according to the department’s standards. The Animal Welfare Acts states conditioned animals refers to animals that have been subject to special care to improve their health.
Wybert said she is trying to fix the issues found during the 30 day closure.
“We’ll just be here every day feeding the animals, taking care of them, exercising the dogs, cleaning,” Wybert said. “Just our usual thing and trying to correct anything they say is wrong.”
But the organization’s bank account has been frozen. Wybert believes the account was frozen by disgruntled former board members who were recently voted off. A court order has been released in order to unfreeze it. Currently, she cannot order any vaccinations or medicines and has been relying on food donations.
There is only one person employed at Safe Harbor and Wybert said she thinks the lack of help has contributed to the problems the facility is facing. Staff members were fired over the summer because of spraying animals with hoses and causing stress to the animals by playing loud music. Another staff member texted while at work.
A trial will be held sometime after the 30 day restraining order.
“I’m hoping for a good outcome,” Wybert said. “ That we can remain in business, that our reputation will be restored and that some of these people leave us alone.”