The current four-person staff of the New Haven Animal Shelter must often choose between regular maintenance of the shelter and responding to emergency requests.
With only two employees trained to answer calls from the field, the staff must work overtime, doing cursory work on investigations in order to finish regular kennel duties.
On March 21, Anna Schildroth, who has been a volunteer at the shelter for 15 years and is a member of the volunteer group Friends of the New Haven Animal Shelter, petitioned the New Haven Board of Aldermen to provide $29,000 for more shelter staff. But Ward 6 Alderwoman Dolores Colon said it would be difficult for the Finance Committee to appropriate funds.
“Ideally, we should have [the shelter] fully staffed with as many animal-care specialists as possible, but I don’t foresee that happening in the near future,” Colon said.
Jerome Davis is the only remaining assistant animal control officer at the shelter since the retirement of his coworker. The trained employees, who consist of only Davis and a kennel worker, not only exert themselves on emergency calls, but must also be present whenever an animal is euthanized, adding to the workers’ stress, Schildroth said. Although the 2006-07 city budget includes money to pay the salary of a replacement, Schildroth said the shelter still needs more support.
“The short staff makes it harder to answer cruelty calls, animal nuisance calls and injured animal calls,” Davis said.
Davis and his three coworkers worked 497 regular hours and 190 overtime hours in 2005, according to Schildroth.
“We haven’t been staffed well for years, which means [the staff is] on call all night,” said Karen Marchione, a former president of the Friends of the Shelter. “The staff is exhausted, and it’s not even a physical exhaustion. It’s a mental exhaustion, so without extra people, there’s no end in sight.”
But Colon said the board is not ignoring Schildroth’s requests and is doing what it can given the current economic situation.
Though Schildroth’s letter to the board successfully secured funds to hire another assistant to work alongside Davis, the shelter remains understaffed. Based on the size of the shelter — which is the largest in the state — the population of the service area, and the duties of each staff position, 11 workers would be needed, according to National Animal Control Association guidelines. This number consists of seven field workers to carry out investigations and make follow-up calls and four kennel workers to maintain basic standards of care. For this reason, she asked the board to include an additional kennel worker in the 2006-2007 budget to “avoid a crisis.”
Ward 25 Alderwoman Ina Silverman said she hopes the shelter will be able to procure more funding to solve these problems in the future.
With the city strapped for cash, Schildroth intends to direct her efforts to the Yale campus. She said she plans to bring informational material to Dwight Hall so students can understand the situation and contact Ward 1 Alderman Nick Shalek ’05, who is on the board’s Finance Committee.
“We really need people to call him and get him to support this,” she said.
Shalek was not available for comment Sunday night.
In addition to more staff, Schildroth said the shelter needs physical renovations.
“The roof leaks, so when it rains, this place is filled with buckets,” Schildroth said.
She also said the awning extending over the “runs,” or the outdoor portions of the kennels, must be replaced, as must the plastic dog bowls. These, she said, when scratched, retain bacteria and spread disease.
“To replace the bowls with stainless steel ones would cost about $6,000, but it would make cleaning a lot easier,” Schildroth said.
Schildroth said she plans to attend a board meeting in the near future to follow up on her requests.